Monday, December 31, 2007

100th Times Square Ball-Drop

picture by Shannon Stapleton / Reuters
(used with permission)
The Times Square New Year's Eve ball is raised during a test drop
in New York on Friday, Dec. 28, 2007.

Did you know that 2007 marks 100 years of dropping a decorative ball atop a high building in Times Square to celebrate New Year's Eve? Sitting in my company's Times Square office, directly across the street from this year's much heralded new ball, I became curious about it and spent some time reading the websites that appeared in response to my "Times Square Ball" Google search.

First off, I learned that the idea of dropping a ball to signal the passage of time did not originate with Times Square promoters. In 1833 the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, England, installed a rooftop ball which would drop at one o’clock every afternoon so that ship captains could set their chronometers for accurate navigation. Based on the success of that venture, approximately 150 public time-balls were installed around the world. Only a few still work, and the Times Square ball has become the most famous. Watched by over one billion people around the world on New Year’s Eve, it has become “a universal symbol of celebration and renewal.” *

There were only four balls used in Times Square before this one.

  • In 1907 the first ball to be dropped in Times Square was made of iron and wood and lit by 100 25-watt light bulbs.
  • In 1920 a ball made entirely of iron replaced it and was used for 35 years.

  • In 1955 an aluminum ball was installed. The aluminum ball saw many years of use and underwent various modifications, particularly in the 1980’s when the lights were red and the addition of a stem lit in green transformed it into a Big Apple.

  • On New Year’s Eve 1999 a new ball, made by Waterford Crystal in Ireland, was installed to usher in the year 2000. It featured 504 crystal triangles of different sizes, all bearing images related to the theme of peace. It was lit by 600 halogen bulbs.

This year a new ball was created, again by Waterford, in honor of the 100th New Year’s celebration in Times Square. Following this ball's theme, Let There Be Light, the new design includes technical innovations which allowed for the addition of 168 more crystal triangles. In addition, all the triangles are cut on both sides which will maximize the light refraction. 9,576 Philips Luxeon LEDs equipped with solid state wiring will make this year’s ball more than twice as bright and capable of millions of colors and billions of patterns. Should be quite a sight!

So... there's some trivia you can share with friends as you watch the ball drop tonight. Happy New Year!

* This quote and most of the information in this post comes from the Times Square Alliance website, in particular the pages About the New Year's Eve Ball and History of New Year's Eve in Times Square. Please visit those sites to read more details and to see the interesting pictures found there.

© 2007, Linda Mason Hood
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