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Reverse Engineering Ahmed Mohamed’s Clock…and Ourselves
ArtVoice ^ | September 17, 2015 | Anthony

Posted on 09/19/2015 5:51:43 AM PDT by 1010RD

I have something in common with Ahmed Mohamed: as a youngster, I was also an electronics enthusiast. At his age and even earlier, I frequently took apart electronic devices – anything from my own toys, to broken things around the house, and even that dirty garbage-picked black and white TV my parents dragged home that they knew I’d have a blast playing with (I did.) I’d try and troubleshoot, repair, or sometimes just disassemble things and salvage components for future projects. I’d try and imagine how all those bits and pieces, lengths of wires, mazes of conductive circuit board traces all came together to produce an image, or a sound, or some other useful function. I wanted to know how it all worked.

Without dating myself – fast forward a bunch of years, and I’m the same way. I’ve even picked up an engineering degree over the course of those years. I don’t have to only imagine how things work anymore, I have a pretty good understanding now. When shopping for electronic devices, my first instinct is to see if there’s a way to build one myself (and, I frequently do!) When something of mine breaks, I don’t send it back, I take it as a personal challenge to get it working again. If I fail, I still salvage useful parts – they might come in handy to fix something else later. This aspect of myself – being both methodical, and curious – hasn’t changed a bit over the years.

So, this story about a 14 year old boy in Texas that was arrested on suspicion of creating a bomb hoax (who, apparently just wanted to show off his latest electronics project to his teachers) that has blown up (no pun intended) all over the news and social media, caught my attention immediately. Not because of his race, or his religion, the seeming absurdity of the situation, the emotionally charged photo of a young boy in a NASA t-shirt being led off in hand cuffs, the hash tags, the presidential response… no, none of that. I’m an electronics geek. I was interested in the clock! I wanted to figure out what he had come up with.

I found the highest resolution photograph of the clock I could. Instantly, I was disappointed. Somewhere in all of this – there has indeed been a hoax. Ahmed Mohamed didn’t invent his own alarm clock. He didn’t even build a clock. Now, before I go on and get accused of attacking a 14 year old kid who’s already been through enough, let me explain my purpose. I don’t want to just dissect the clock. I want to dissect our reaction as a society to the situation. Part of that is the knee-jerk responses we’re all so quick to make without facts. So, before you scroll down and leave me angry comments, please continue to the end (or not – prove my point, and miss the point, entirely!)

For starters, one glance at the printed circuit board in the photo, and I knew we were looking at mid-to-late 1970s vintage electronics. Surely you’ve seen a modern circuit board, with metallic traces leading all over to the various components like an electronic spider’s web. You’ll notice right away the highly accurate spacing, straightness of the lines, consistency of the patterns. That’s because we design things on computers nowadays, and computers assist in routing these lines. Take a look at the board in Ahmed’s clock. It almost looks hand-drawn, right? That’s because it probably was. Computer aided design was in its infancy in the 70s. This is how simple, low cost items (like an alarm clock) were designed. Today, even a budding beginner is going to get some computer aided assistance – in fact they’ll probably start there, learning by simulating designs before building them. You can even simulate or lay out a board with free apps on your phone or tablet. A modern hobbyist usually wouldn’t be bothered with the outdated design techniques. There’s also silk screening on the board. An “M” logo, “C-94” (probably, a part number – C might even stand for “clock”), and what looks like an American flag. More about that in a minute. Point for now being, a hobbyist wouldn’t silk screen logos and part numbers on their home made creation. It’s pretty safe to say already we’re looking at ’70s tech, mass produced in a factory.

So I turned to eBay, searching for vintage alarm clocks. It only took a minute to locate Ahmed’s clock. See this eBay listing, up at the time of this writing. Amhed’s clock was invented, and built, by Micronta, a Radio Shack subsidary. Catalog number 63 756.

The shape and design is a dead give away. The large screen. The buttons on the front laid out horizontally would have been on a separate board – a large snooze button, four control buttons, and two switches to turn the alarm on and off, and choose two brightness levels. A second board inside would have contained the actual “brains” of the unit. The clock features a 9v battery back-up, and a switch on the rear allows the owner to choose between 12 and 24 hour time. (Features like a battery back-up, and a 24 hour time selection seems awful superfluous for a hobby project, don’t you think?) Oh, and about that “M” logo on the circuit board mentioned above? Micronta.

For one last bit of confirmation, I located the pencil box Ahmed used for his project. During this video interview he again claims it was his “invention” and that he “made” the device – but the important thing at the moment, at 1:13, we see him showing the pencil box on his computer screen. Here it is on Amazon, where it’s clearly labeled as being 8.25 inches wide. Our eBay seller also conveniently took a photo of the clock next to a ruler to show it’s scale – about 8 inches wide. The dimensions all line up perfectly.

So there you have it folks, Ahmed Mohamad did not invent, nor build a clock. He took apart an existing clock, and transplanted the guts into a pencil box, and claimed it was his own creation. It all seems really fishy to me.

If we accept the story about “inventing” an alarm clock is made up, as I think I’ve made a pretty good case for, it’s fair to wonder what other parts of the story might be made up, not reported factually by the media, or at least, exaggerated.

I refer back again to this YouTube video interview with Ahmed. He explains that he closed up the box with a piece of cord because he didn’t want it to look suspicious. I’m curious, why would “looking suspicious” have even crossed his mind before this whole event unfolded, if he was truly showing off a hobby project, something so innocuous as an alarm clock. Why did he choose a pencil box, one that looks like a miniature briefcase no less, as an enclosure for a clock? It’s awful hard to see the clock with the case closed. On the other hand, with the case open, it’s awful dangerous to have an exposed power transformer sitting near the snooze button (unless, perhaps his invention was to stop serial-snooze-button pressers by giving them a dangerous electrical shock!)

So again, I’m pointing all this out – about the specifics of the clock – not to pick on the poor kid. I’m picking on us, our culture, and our media. I don’t even care about the clock itself at this point.

If we stop and think – was it really such a ridiculous reaction from the teacher and the police in the first place? How many school shootings and incidents of violence have we had, where we hear afterwards “this could have been prevented, if only we paid more attention to the signs!” Teachers are taught to be suspicious and vigilant. Ahmed wasn’t accused of making a bomb – he was accused of making a look-alike, a hoax. And be honest with yourself, a big red digital display with a bunch of loose wires in a brief-case looking box is awful like a Hollywood-style representation of a bomb. Everyone jumped to play the race and religion cards and try and paint the teachers and police as idiots and bigots, but in my mind, they were probably acting responsibly and erring on the side of caution to protect the rest of their students, just in case. “This wouldn’t have happened if Ahmed were white,” they say. We’re supposed to be sensitive to school violence, but apparently religious and racial sensitivity trumps that. At least we have another clue about how the sensitivity and moral outrage pecking order lies.

Because, is it possible, that maybe, just maybe, this was actually a hoax bomb? A silly prank that was taken the wrong way? That the media then ran with, and everyone else got carried away? Maybe there wasn’t even any racial or religious bias on the parts of the teachers and police.

I don’t know any of these things. But I’m intellectually mature enough to admit I don’t know, and to also be OK with that. I don’t feel a need to take the first exist to conclusionville. But I do like to find facts where I can, and prefer to let them lead me to conclusions, rather than a knee jerk judgement based on a headline or sound bite.

I think the whole event – and our collective response, with everybody up to the President chiming in, says a whole lot about us. We don’t care that none of us were there and knows what happened, we jump to conclusions and assume we’re experts. We care about the story, but we don’t care about the actual facts. Headlines and click-bait are far more interesting than thinking for ourselves. We like to point out other any bit of perceived injustice or discrimination we can find – it’s practically a new national past-time. We like playing victim, and we like talking about victims – so much so we sometimes find victims where none really existed. We also like to find somebody to blame, even when there’s nobody at fault. We like to play social justice warrior on our Facebooks and Twitters, posting memes and headlines without digging in behind the sensationalism, winning bonus sensitivity points in the forms of likes and re-tweets. Once group-think kicks in, we rally around hash tags and start shouting moral outrage in a deafeningly loud national chorus. The media plays us like a fiddle, and we don’t even notice we’ve all been had.

As for me, I’m glad to apply the lessons I’ve learned as an electronics enthusiast to other aspects of life. There’s no emotion in troubleshooting a circuit, electricity doesn’t have morals. There’s just physics, and logic, and methodology. I think we could all benefit from applying a little more of that sort of thinking to these situations.

* Correction: A reader and commenter, Joe Donaldson, tracked down the clock in a Radio Shack catalog dated 1986. It’s likely that my guess of mid-to-late 70s was off by a bit, and it’s now obvious it was a model that was for sale in the mid 80s. Though it doesn’t really change the point, I want to post this correction here for accuracy sake and thank Joe for the heads up. (See the comment here, with link to the catalog page.)

TOPICS: Crime/Corruption; Culture/Society; Front Page News; War on Terror
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To: 1010RD

My take is that this thing was designed as a hoax, not by the kid, but by his Dad who seems to be a non-stop runner for Prez of Sudan.

Second, his ‘sister’ who just happened to be in the same class also just happened to video the incident.

At best this was set up as an attention getter for the Dad’s current Prez run. At worst it was ‘trial run’. Whether a political hoax or a trial run, the kid like many muslim kids was the hapless pawn.

41 posted on 09/19/2015 7:22:51 AM PDT by X-spurt (CRUZ missile - armed and ready.)
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To: 1010RD


and in TX its a crime to make a HOAX BOMB
so there you have it ...

WHY THE N A S A shirt..... not so subtle a message considering the duung beetle tasked NASA with researching what muslims contributed to society... still working on it .. nothing found to date ...

OH and his muslim dad is a muslim activist and of course CAIR and theother terror supporting and affiliated groups rush right in on cue...


obama the dung beetle to the rescue AGAIN for the possible criminal... so what’s new...

42 posted on 09/19/2015 7:24:42 AM PDT by zzwhale
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To: foxfield

Somebody is going to set him up the bomb.

43 posted on 09/19/2015 7:30:03 AM PDT by going hot (Happiness is a momma deuce)
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To: 1010RD

Muslims love to provoke infidels.

Look how Obama is trying to provoke Catholics by inviting all sorts of creeps, perverts, misfits and anti-Catholics to meet with Pope Francis.

This controversy over a digital clock is definitely a set-up designed to provoke a response that the family could claim as discrimination against muslims.

Don’t overlook the fact that the family has familiarity with electronics and technology.

Ahmed Mohamed’s father owns a computer repair shop in Irving, Texas and a solar energy business in Sudan.

See here:

“The Surprising Backstory Behind #IStandWithAhmed’s 2-Time Sudanese Presidential Candidate Father”

44 posted on 09/19/2015 7:31:22 AM PDT by Iron Munro (CITY: A liberal run holding pen for useless headcount.)
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To: Vigilantcitizen
More importantly, this was no ASSIGNMENT. He did it at home, and bought it in "to show off his engineering skills"... in English class... after being told to put it away after first period... and it went off... and it disrupted class enough that police had to be called...

It's a false-flag operation, set up by his activist father. There is no doubt in my mind.

45 posted on 09/19/2015 7:33:21 AM PDT by Teacher317 (We have now sunk to a depth at which restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men)
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To: sportutegrl

What difference does it make whether this kid is a genius or an idiot? The fact is, he said he built something “that wasn’t much suspicious,” took it to school and scared the hell out of people. I believe he did it so 1. authorities would be much more respectful to the next jihadist who brings a real bomb to school and 2. the kid gets an American pity party and enough cash to subsidize his education in true bomb-building.

This has turned into an engineering story with freepers bragging about their know-how in clock-making rather than focusing on jihadist kiddies. Talk about not seeing the forest for the trees!

46 posted on 09/19/2015 7:51:37 AM PDT by miss marmelstein (Richard the Third: I'd like to drive away not only the Turks (moslims) but all my foes.")
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To: 1010RD

If we accept the story about “inventing” an alarm clock is made up, as I think I’ve made a pretty good case for, it’s fair to wonder what other parts of the story might be made up, not reported factually by the media, or at least, exaggerated.

Sums it up well.

47 posted on 09/19/2015 7:59:03 AM PDT by Bigg Red (Let's put the ship of state on Cruz Control with Ted Cruz.)
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To: Bernard

I vote for your plan.

48 posted on 09/19/2015 8:03:12 AM PDT by Bigg Red (Let's put the ship of state on Cruz Control with Ted Cruz.)
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To: RFEngineer

The real news is that our president, and the CEO of Facebook are too stupid to know what true technical creativity is.

I know it sounds like a conspiracy theory, but I have come to the conclusion that a big circle of leftists was involved in this deal. Whoever sends out the regime’s talking points also sent out an outline of this scenario and assigned roles for the players.

49 posted on 09/19/2015 8:05:44 AM PDT by Bigg Red (Let's put the ship of state on Cruz Control with Ted Cruz.)
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To: Tijeras_Slim

Well said!

50 posted on 09/19/2015 8:07:15 AM PDT by Bigg Red (Let's put the ship of state on Cruz Control with Ted Cruz.)
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To: gaijin

This is Bonfire of the Vanities at Romper Room.

Well played!

51 posted on 09/19/2015 8:10:53 AM PDT by Bigg Red (Let's put the ship of state on Cruz Control with Ted Cruz.)
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To: 1010RD


52 posted on 09/19/2015 8:10:58 AM PDT by SunTzuWu
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To: Bigg Red

“Whoever sends out the regime’s talking points also sent out an outline of this scenario and assigned roles for the players.”

I don’t think it has to be an active conspiracy. The folks in this scenario behaved reflexively to fulfill their respective roles. This can happen without a larger conspiracy. The teens father saw his opening, and took it - through his son.

We are so programmed with PC as a society that none of this needs to be a specific conspiracy.

The larger conspiracy is how to get the “muslims are good” narrative into the overall PC collection of foundational truths. This is how you do it.

53 posted on 09/19/2015 8:21:08 AM PDT by RFEngineer
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To: RFEngineer

All good points well taken. Thank you.

54 posted on 09/19/2015 8:28:58 AM PDT by Bigg Red (Let's put the ship of state on Cruz Control with Ted Cruz.)
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To: Eagles6
And he has allies of course like Emran El-Badawi who assists with the Arabic Immersion school in Houston.
55 posted on 09/19/2015 9:46:43 AM PDT by magna carta
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To: RFEngineer

The creativity in this endeavor was all social - knowing the reaction to a collection of electronic parts, knowing how to frame it as a discriminatory event with Muslims as the victim, getting the press to react and knowing our muslim sympathizer president to react were a logical extrapolation.
You just hammered that nail in one blow!

56 posted on 09/19/2015 10:21:43 AM PDT by octex
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To: 1010RD

We need to be loading up the bays of container ships with cages full of guys named mohammed. Back to Syrackia.

57 posted on 09/19/2015 10:26:37 AM PDT by ROCKLOBSTER (Celebrate "Republican Freed the Slaves" month.)
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To: Bratch
Odd. My pencil cases don't look like those ones...

I put a piece of visco fuse in the hole in the end... so it "doesn't look suspicious".

58 posted on 09/19/2015 10:41:39 AM PDT by Rodamala
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To: 1010RD

Let’s cut to the chase here. If a white American boy/girl had taken a clock to school they’d still be sitting in jail and their parents lawyered up. That’s if the school’s principal did not call in a swat team and the kid get slaughtered for raising his hand or something.

59 posted on 09/19/2015 11:00:23 AM PDT by Shery (Pray for righteousness to be restored and for the peace of Jerusalem.)
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To: 1010RD

Mr Kitty said that’s what the kid did right away. And that he did a bad job of it.

120 volt transformer with lose wires in a metal case. Could have a bad ending.

60 posted on 09/19/2015 12:26:22 PM PDT by KosmicKitty (Liberals claim to want to hear other views, but then are shocked to discover there are other views)
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