3. The Ball Drop Is Initiated by a Laser-Cooled Atomic Clock
For the first 87 years of the Times Square New Year’s Eve ball drop, the balls were actually lowered by hand. In 1907, the first New Year’s Eve ball was lowered by a team of six men using rope. According to Jeff Strauss in an interview with the New York Times, this system was actually used all the way up until 1995, when the ball drop was first computerized.
In addition to controlling the dazzling light display on the ball, a computer controls the actual descent as well. What used to take a crew of six men is now accomplished with the push of a button. The ball drop is electronically timed with a laser-cooled atomic clock in Boulder, Colorado. It takes the ball 60 seconds to complete its 77-foot journey down the pole.