Hoax Exposed: Muslim Student Ahmed Mohamed’s ‘Briefcase Clock’ is 1980s Digital Alarm Clock

““Cool clock, Ahmed. Want to bring it to the White House? We should inspire more kids like you to like science. It’s what makes America great.”
President Barack Obama, September 16, 2015

It was a Hoax.
Ahmed Mohamed’s claims that he assembled a clock at home that he took to school is starting to unravel.

Two investigators who have studied the image of Mohamed’s device provided by Irving, Texas police have concluded that Mohamed did not make the clock. Both conclude that Mohamed disassembled a manufactured clock and installed it in a large pencil box without its casing. And both say it is possible it was done to provoke suspicion or to resemble a bomb.

Update: Clock has been identified as being sold in a 1986 Radio Shack catalogue by an Art Voice reader. The headline and text for this article has been changed to reflect the update.

Ahmed Clock Irving PD

14-year-old Mohamed, a Muslim, was briefly arrested and investigated for bringing a hoax bomb to MacArthur High School in Irving, Texas on Monday. He was subsequently cleared.

Thousands of dollars have been donated to Ahmed Mohamed in just the past few days, reported CNN.

“On Monday, 14-year-old Mohamed was arrested for taking a homemade clock to school that his teachers thought was a bomb. So crowdfunding platform LaunchGood started a campaign to raise $100,000 for the Muslim teen.

“In just one day, the site had raised over $10,000 from more than 200 backers. It’s hoping to raise $100,000 by October 13.

“”The support for it has been amazing,” said Chris Abdur-Rahman Blauvelt, CEO of LaunchGood, which supports projects started by Muslims or ones that are tied to the history and study of Islam.

…”Blauvelt said his campaign has the approval of Mohamed’s family. He said half of the money donated will go toward a scholarship fund for Mohamed and the rest to efforts that foster creativity and inventiveness in kids.

“In addition to LaunchGood, crowdfunding platform Gofundme has also launched a campaign for Mohamed. It’s raised more than $4,000 with a goal of $60,000 that will go toward Mohamed’s future college tuition.”

Thomas Talbot posted a video to YouTube explaining the various parts in the photo of Mohamed’s briefcase clock belong to a manufactured alarm clock.

“Anthony”, writing at the blog Art Voice, detailed how Mohamed’s device is actually a 1980s digital alarm clock sold by Radio Shack.

“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.”

…”Because, is it possible, that maybe, just maybe, this was actually a hoax bomb? A silly prank that was taken the wrong way?…”

Micronta Clock
Micronta clock with measurement showing it could fit in Ahmed Mohamed’s pencil box. Image via Art Voice.

More details and photos at Art Voice.

President Barack Obama tweeted an invitation to the White House to Mohamed before all the details were known.

““Cool clock, Ahmed. Want to bring it to the White House? We should inspire more kids like you to like science. It’s what makes America great.”

Obama’s press secretary Josh Earnest attacked teachers at a briefing on Wednesday for calling in authorities to investigate Mohamed.

“Q Josh, how did President Obama come to post a tweet about a high school student in Texas who made a clock with some wires that got him in trouble? And why did he choose to tweet about it?”

“MR. EARNEST: Well, I think the President, like many of us, was struck by the news reports of this particular incident. Mark, the fact is that America’s best teachers in our schools — in our best schools at least — nurture the intellectual curiosity of all of our students. In this instance, it’s clear that at least some of Ahmed’s teachers failed him. That’s too bad. But it’s not too late for all of us to use this as a teachable moment and to search our own conscience for biases in whatever form they take.

“This episode is a good illustration of how pernicious stereotypes can prevent even good-hearted people who dedicate their lives to educating young people for doing the good work that they set out to do.”

“So the President was pleased to extend an invitation — or the White House was pleased to extend an invitation to Ahmed to participate in Astronomy Night that will be hosted here at the White House next month. Astronomy Night is an event that we’ve previously held here that will bring together government, scientists, and NASA astronauts and others to spend some time with young people examining the wonders of the heavens. And it will be an opportunity for them to talk about science and our solar system and the universe. And it should be a good event. And I think that — or at least we are hopeful that Ahmed will feel right at home here.”

“Q Does President Obama believe bias was a factor because the young man is Muslim?”

“MR. EARNEST: Well, I think from this distance, it’s far too early to draw that direct assessment from here. We have seen that local law enforcement officials have closed the case. And I think there are some difficult and penetrating questions that do need to be asked in pursuit of the information that you just presented.”

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