[tz] [PROPOSED] zic -r is incompatible with rolling leaps

Paul Eggert eggert at cs.ucla.edu
Mon Sep 13 21:14:08 UTC 2021

On 9/13/21 7:40 AM, Arthur David Olson wrote:
> Folks looking for
> documentation of "3...2...1...leap" in New York might focus on 1987 or,
> before that, 1972 through 1979. (My guess 1987.)

I looked into this some more, and discovered that for 1988 there was a 
special Times Square production which extended the drop by one second 
and had a special light show during the leap second. The plans for this 
production are documented here:

McFadden RD. '88 Countdown: 3, 2, 1, Leap Second, 0. New York Times. 
1987-12-29. B1. 

McFadden wrote that officially the 1987-12-31 23:59:60 leap second was 
stationary, but that "unofficially" it was rolling through the US.

However, when I reviewed YouTube videos of the Times Square event, it 
appeared that things didn't go off as smoothly as planned. For example:


This contains recordings of two broadcasts of the Times Square ball 
drop. In the first, the announcer says "3... 2... 1 leap and we're into 
'88!". However, the broadcast's digital clock inset (labeled "ABC TIME") 
has no leap second, and the announcer says "1 leap and" all within the 
same second to keep in sync with ABC TIME, so the leap second 
announcement was completely botched. That same YouTube video also 
contains a recording from another station, where there's also a digital 
clock inset with no leap second, and no mention of any leap second.

So it appears that although the 1988 Times Squares organizers tried to 
observe a leap second at local midnight, many observers didn't get the 
point and so in some sense the observation did not work.

I looked one other video of the 1988 New Year celebration, the Bill 
Graham / Grateful Dead celebration at Oakland Coliseum:


and found no leap seconds.

So here's what I suspect:

* There was no longstanding tradition of observing a leap second at 
local midnight at Times Square.

* 1988 was a one-off; the practice was not repeated.

* McFadden's report that the leap second was rolling through the US was 
wishful thinking by the Times Square organizers.

Further research and comments are welcome of course. Proposed further 
patch attached in the meantime.
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