[LEAPSECS] New Year in Times Square

Brian Garrett mgy1912 at cox.net
Sat Jan 1 16:11:34 EST 2011

A number of New Year's Eves ago (that number being probably around 15 at
this point) I remember seeing a news program interview the crew that was
setting up that year's Times Square ball drop. They specifically asked what
the crew used to control the timing. The crew said that everything was
hooked up to an atomic clock and that its connection to the circuitry ran
the entire show (the ceremonial button-pushing by the mayor being just
that). As I recall, this was not a leap-second occasion so no-one needed to
work around 23:59:60.

Nowadays the ball drop seems to have even more bells and whistles (and
fireworks, something I don't believe the Times Square event had back in the
'90s)., so the need for atomic timekeeping would be even more essential, I
would think. At least, I would hope so. I'd hate to think there was some
guy with an "atomic" desk clock from Wal-Mart shouting "NOW!"


P.S. My own comparison of last night's festivities to accurate time
according to my radio-controlled watch and SNTP-synced computer showed a
nine-second delay on ABC and a 13 to 17 second delay at various points in
the broadcast on NBC. I didn't pay close attention to CNN's live broadcast
but it seemed to be in the neighborhood of 12 seconds plus or minus one

From: "Daniel R. Tobias" <dan at tobias.name>
Sent: Saturday, January 01, 2011 6:52 AM
To: "Leap Second Discussion List" <leapsecs at leapsecond.com>
Subject: Re: [LEAPSECS] New Year in Times Square

> On 1 Jan 2011 at 10:37, Poul-Henning Kamp wrote:


>> In message <4D1EB623.2720.372137B4 at dan.tobias.name>, "Daniel R. Tobias"

>> writes:


>> >I just watched the ball drop in Times Square (on TV, not in person!),

>> >and noticed that my watch (auto-synced daily via radio signal) was

>> >about 15 seconds fast [...]


>> In difference from analog tv/radio, digital transmission of broadcast

>> signals almost begs to be delayed.


> Anyway, if there's one time that the average person (not the

> specialized techies on this list) actually notices and cares about

> time down to the second, it's New Years Eve, but it seems that the

> time they see when they count down to the TV is actually shifted

> somewhat from the real time.


> The network techies, however, do need to concern themselves with

> being precisely synced to whatever time standard the Times Square

> people use; it would be embarrassing if the ball dropped a second

> early or late compared to their countdown. This means that if there

> was a leap second at UTC midnight (a few hours before New York

> midnight), they'd better all be on the same page with regard to

> applying it (or not).



> --

> == Dan ==

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