Time balls, that is.
New Year’s Eve is upon us and you know what that means – overpriced food and drink, idiots on the roads and highways, and sheeple crowding into Time Square, New York City, to watch the ball drop.
In the not too distant past, The Time Ball was of real, practical use for providing accurate time.
It all started in England back in Portsmouth, in 1829. A young naval officer came up with the idea to drop a large ball from a great height at a certain time, in this case 1PM, in order for ships to see and adjust their on-board chronometers for accurate navigation and the plotting of their longitude.
Here in the States, the time balls were set up and operated by astronomical observatories to help pay the bills. Back then, the government did not give away hard earned tax payer money for astronomical research grants. Observatories were either privately funded or they had to come up with something else.
They needed to get creative.
This ‘something else’ was charging for a time telling service utilizing the time ball. Since the observatory had the instruments to accurately provide the precise time of local Noon (when the sun was at the highest point in the sky), it made sense to offer this service at a cost so local businesses could synchronize their watches and clocks.
For example, atop Boston’s Equitable Building, the time ball on the high mast was dropped everyday at Noon. Everyone seeing this could synchronize their watches and clocks.
‘Time’ for a return to Time Balls.