Clocks For Social Good

Over the past five days we’ve been challenging the Hackaday community to build a clock and show it off. This is to raise awareness for electronics design in everyday life and hopefully you found a non-hacker to join you on the project. The point is that our society — which has pretty much universally accepted everyday carry of complex electronics — has no idea what goes into electronic design. How are we supposed to get kids excited about engineering if they are never able to pull back that curtain and see it in action?

Build something simple that can be understood by everyone, and show it off in a way that invites the uninitiated to get excited. What’s simpler than a clock? I think of it as the impetus behind technology. Marking the passage of time goes back to our roots as primitive humans following migratory herds, and betting on the changing seasons for crop growth. Our modern lives are governed by time more than ever. These Clocks for Social Good prove that anyone can understand how this technology works. And everyone who wants to learn to build their own electronic gadget can discover how to do so at low-cost and with reasonable effort. This is how we grow the next generation of engineers, so let’s take a look at what we all came up with over the weekend.

12-seg-clock-thumb This Obvious Clock is Obvious — the title describes the clock extremely well and it’s why I picked this one as the first feature. In addition to this close-up image of the 14-segment display make sure you take a gander at the breadboarded circuit shown at the top of the post.

As far as electronics go, this is a dead-simple way to do it. Several breadboard friendly modules were combined: an Adafruit Trinket, a rotary encoder, real-time clock module, I2C display, and power supply that takes USB input. It’s a blueprint for anyone that wants to “build by numbers” but there is a lot of room to grow once this first project is said and done.

The software side of things might be a bit more challenging. The Trinket does work with the Arduino IDE but [Douglas Henke] wrote everything is plain old C (a hacker after my own heart). The rotary encoder offers a menu system — these things can get hairy for beginners. But he has done a great job of commenting the code which means finding that friend who can help you work through it line-by-line will bring your C comprehension skills up to snuff post-haste.

cga-clockThe CGA clock is a throwback. I wonder how many of our readers don’t associate those three letters with a video standard? Hopefully not many as understanding the epic march of computer graphics through the years makes you absolutely marvel at that cellphone display you hold in your hand as you read this post.

At face value this is just a binary clock with some colors added in. Each column reads out one digit of the hours, minutes, and seconds using binary code.

But if you’re not great at converting those binary values to decimal quickly, you might just remember the CGA color values. Instead of tracking the locations of the pixels, you add up the color palette values and should get the same numbers you would have if you had gone with the binary calculation.

For those of you keeping track. This one’s driven by a PIC16F688 and uses mains AC frequency to keep accurate time.

fischertechnik-analog-clockNot every clock focuses on electronics. This FischerTechnik Clock builds analog hands from the superbly awesome toys. I don’t think I’ve ever run across these before but they seem to be the affordable hobby version of that FAC machine building set we saw last week.

In this picture, the minutes hand is really easy to see pointing to the ‘6’ position. A bit harder is the hours hand which is pointing between the ‘7’ and ‘9’ position.

[Jac Goudsmit] went all out with a mammoth set of build instructions. He plans to make an update later which shows how to add the electronics parts to drive it.

ws2812-esp8266-clockThere are many more to peruse in the list linked at the top of the post, but I thought it fitting to finish up with another simple clock that is almost cliché for Hackaday. [Radomir Dopieralski’s] Yet Another Clock Project combines parts that are a favorite around here: WS2812B LEDs and an ESP8266 module.

The module brings Internet connectivity through WiFi; a great choice considering most of the clocks in our lives are kept true using Network Time Protocol (NTP). The LEDs are driven on a single cascading data line which makes the wiring fairly simple, and the lithium battery with tending circuit makes it portable. The finished version — programmed in Lua — houses everything in an interestingly shaped acrylic box.

I know I’m preaching to the choir with this post. But you have the power to move electronics toward the main stream. Find an opportunity in your community to raise the profile of building electronics as a hobby. It doesn’t have to be complex, expensive, or time-consuming. Channel that wonder you felt the first time you lit an LED, and then find a way to pass on the excitement to anyone who will give you the time of day.

It’s not too late to get on this list, let me know when you post your project and I’ll make sure it joins the collection.

137 thoughts on “Clocks For Social Good

    1. for my own clocks, I am using arduino (sorry, I know I didn’t ‘invent that’, lol) and the library for timezone handles all that. you simply include 2 lines like this:

      TimeChangeRule usEDT = {“EDT”, Second, Sun, Mar, 2, -240}; //UTC – 4 hours
      TimeChangeRule usEST = {“EST”, First, Sun, Nov, 2, -300}; //UTC – 5 hours


      its not ‘auto configurable’ since you need to manually enter the timezone on your clock and you have to have a big table of those offsets OR you enter a few and pick the ones you want. but that’s how its done.

        1. Yes, to change it automatically, you would need the entire TZ database plus GPS (and even then you would need regular TZ database updates), it’s a nightmare. It’s much easier to decide that your clock won’t change its TimeZone in the forseable future :)
          Another solution is to provide a few selectable pre-programmed TZ, but they are bound to be changed by some government a day or another.

  1. You know how you periodically investigate a kick-starter, going over public pictures and asking real questions about “is this real”?

    The difference in the way you are approaching Ahmed’s clock and a random kickstarter is really really painful to watch. Your credibility is on the line here and you really really need to say “yeah okay we were taken in by a story that was too good to check”.

    Ahmed’s clock was just a disassembled commercial clock. It’s painfully obvious. And to your readers, it’s even more painfully obvious than it is to a lay person.

    I’m embarrassed for you guys. You keep doubling down on “lay people hate science” when what they really hate is being lied to to advance a narrative.

    Right now, it’s starting to look like you either are incapable of spotting an obvious fake, or that you don’t like facts get in the way of the story you want to tell. Neither is good for your credibility.

    All that said, these are really cool clocks, and the bomb post was good too. But it’s obvious you’re trying to cover up your error. Quit blowing smoke and own up to it.

    Hey, you knwo what? It would make a good “fail of the week” post. And for the same reasons. Failure happens, it’s nothing to be ashamed of, and we cant’ let it get in the way of trying. We need to normalize admitting error so that more people will do it.

    I also think a post where you examine Ahmed’s clock the way you examine anything else, trying to identify chips, boards, and model numbers would be good forensic work.

    1. You’re trolling.

      I don’t care about the merits of the clock Ahmed was showing off in school. I care that the escalation of that situation was due in some part to a general lack of understanding electronics. If you want to drill on that story please go over to that comment thread.

      As I wrote in the article above, this post is about following through on STEM education and this is one avenue to move that goal forward.

      1. I am not trolling, you just don’t like what I have to say.

        Your story leads with “Over the past five days” Well. What happened 5 days ago? Huh?

        Why clocks? Seriously, why clocks, now? Pure randomess? Had it queued for weeks? I have the archive pulled up In my RSS reader now and the only other clocks in sight are all Nixie tube clocks.

        And why the bomb post yesterday (which, mind you, was extremely cool)? “This is what a real bomb looks like”. Why then? Purely at random?

        Mike, you have some of the smartest readers on the planet. You know that’s not going to fly.

      2. You know, I don’t think he is trolling. And I say that because I’ve been feeling the same way about all of the coverage and support that Ahmed has been getting. It would be one thing if he built something – anything – or if the entire thing didn’t reek of the sorts of stunts my classmates did in high school in order to get attention or cause a distraction in class.

        What Ahmed did was not a hack, and what little work he did put into it certainly doesn’t amount to craftsmanship. He pulled the guts out of a clock and put them in an ugly case. Yes, that’s a starting point, but does HaD propose reporting on every bottom-level project any kid works up? Are we going to start getting reports from high school science fairs?

        And don’t start with the argument of this being about social good vs. the evils of ignorance. If you’re preaching the understanding of electronics, then you should really understand that the ONLY difference between a clock and an ignition timer is to what the alarm out line is connected. You connect it to a speaker and you get an annoying buzzing sound to wake you up. You connect it to an ignition source and you’ve got the makings of a bomb – regardless of whether explosives are present.

        This blind support for Ahmed is more dangerous than the lack of STEM education in the world. It’s false intellectualism which results in very real anti-intellectualism. The idea that he did something great because people reacted poorly to it ignores the fact that he didn’t do anything at all, and it not only lowers the bar for what should be considered STEM, it drops it straight to the deck.

        This article also completely ignores the idea that STEM is not, in fact, a path for everyone, but that’s an argument for a different time.

        1. Yes, and yes. HaD, like the President and Microsoft and Zuckerberg drove in without checking and now they are too deep to back out. MS gave the kid one of everything they could lay their hands on. The Pres. invited him to the White House as a representative of great inventing and innovation among the yoots of America without calling the local authorities or school. Cooler heads waited a couple days. Oh, it’s your basic clock stuck in a hole in a small briefcase. Oh, his teacher said don’t show it to anyone else so he took it to every class. Right, his dad ran for President of the Sudan, twice, and is an attention seeking activist for Sharia Law in small town Texas. While the school officials were waiting for the parents who were late to a meeting they saw them on TV giving news conferences. Not that that means anything. And the clock, the thing that looks like many a movie bomb prop, carried into ever class where teachers are under the law, Mandated Reporters, like police.

          Then when the teachers and everyone else do what they must, HaD and plenty of HaD readers want to walk in like Randy Marsh – “Hey, I’m a geologist and you all need to ignore your training and the law because I know a clock when I see one”. All the clever clock bits and the word “clock” crossed out in random postings. Pretty darn smug for people who seriously jumped the gun. I bet you even think its about race and religion.

        2. “He pulled the guts out of a clock and put them in an ugly case. Yes, that’s a starting point, but does HaD propose reporting on every bottom-level project any kid works up?”

          If it encourages a kid to go further in the pursuit of technical knowledge, why not? Is it really that controversial to be encouraging?

          1. If he had actually done something, sure, encourage away. But taking a complete, working system, putting it in a different case, and passing it off as your own work? I can’t think of a better word to describe that than plagiarism.

          2. Well, a small boy chewed a Pop Tart so it looked vaguely like a gun, and was suspended from school for it. Of course, he was white, and not a Muslim, so you dont’ care about him, correct? Or did I just miss your multiple web posts where you “encouraged him” in his artistic endeavors with physical media?

            Want to see a racist / religious bigot? Look to all teh people who think a Muslim should be treated better than a non-Muslim. That an Arab should be treated better than a Caucasian.

            What to see an uninformed, pontificating, ignoramus? Look at anyone blathering about this who’s utterly unaware of all the other “zero tolerance” incidents, but thinks this one is an outrage caused by “Islamophobia”.

            The kids set out to cause a disturbance. Otherwise the clock he’d partially disassembled and brought to school woudl not have had an alarm set to go off in his English class. It’s clear he got what he wanted.

            What’s not entirely clear is why you all feel the need to jump on the side of a kid who’s deliberately disrupting school, and misusing electronics to do it.

        3. I have to agree. I am not surprised that political sites embellished the real issue of school and police overreaction with the added flourish of “Mohamed is a budding tech genius whose amazing talents are being suppressed” added to the narrative. The fawning over his tech skills is disingenuous. I think that most of the members here know just what it is like to be the smart kid who makes stuff, and maybe pays a price for that socially. But how many readers here saw the initial story, and wanted to know exactly what he brought to school, how it was assembled, and what actually led to him getting in trouble. This is one place where the facts can be carefully examined in detail without having to worry about people hating on the kid for being smart or weird or brown or whatever.

      3. Not nice Mike, you post a story that you do know is provocative, then you call people who react a troll. The definition of a troll would fit you better as you are the instigator. I’m sorry mate but I am not going to keep quiet about something that is clearly wrong.

      4. Whether Ahmed’s clock took any skill or not, there is still a lesson to be learned. I explained to my kids that this is why I keep buying arduino’s and quadcopters & Lego NXT, install Basic4Android & Solidworks on his laptop. I changed my whole project into a game machine just to get them interested. I tell them that if this kid could get this much attention with just a different container, something truly innovative would maybe help with a better college education than we can afford. If I was to say let’s build a clock, he would say “there’s a perfectly good clock on my phone.” If you want to do that other thing that clocks are good for, you would probably use a phone.

        We live in a fantastic time, there is almost too much technology. There’s no “I wish it did this”, because there’s so much that already exists to explore. If you get an idea for an APP, your first task is a google search to see who did it already. I thought I had a great idea last week, for an app that serves ISO files as a bootable USB cdrom. Well I was too late on that one. The only thing that will get a kid excited is the thought of building something that DOESN’T exist. Or maybe we can build something we can’t afford.

        I was eleven or 12 when I built an AM transmitter. Because I wanted one. I found the schematics in the back of some magazine. Had to wrap wire around a pencil to make a coil. This was in the 70’s before Mr. microphone even. I could play tapes in my BR and listen on an am radio in my tree fort. I didn’t bring it to school.

        Now they watch youtube on the phone in the tree fort. How many kids have actually even tried the 2 cups & a string?

        It’s really a challenge getting kids into hacking. Even if Ahmed only took moved the clock guts to a pencil case, I guess it all starts with taking stuff apart. But what exactly is a clock in a pencil case good for? It really looks like a movie prop. I could see a kid wanting to build that. I always wanted a reel to reel player that burned up the tapes. I have that compaq concerto out in the garage……..

        1. Back in the dark ages (early 50’s) we all built crystal radios from scratch in the Cub Scouts. Quartz crystals, carbon headphones, condensers of foil and wax paper and coils wound on toilet paper rolls. They worked. We also made our own gunpowder out of our Gilbert chemistry sets. No one invited us to the White House or offered us scholarships. Some of us went into the sciences anyway.

        2. In some ways the old day were easier, in that discarded electronics were easier to dissect for parts and were easier to re-purpose or modify. On the other hand, we have things like Amazon & Ebay for those who live outside major technology hubs can get things that would be otherwise inaccessible.

          I rarely took projects to school, as it would disqualify your for a prom date. Unfortunately, I still apparently exceeded the critical mass for that, yet not enough to get a White House or MIT invite.

          On the other hand, the USAF paid for my technical education, including a college degree. So it paid off in the end, and now I have both a basement bench, and one in my office.

      5. “Clocks for Social Good”

        If you are going to do that then do NOT complain it gets political.
        There’s a reason why you guys pick ‘clocks’ and it is political because of that.

      6. “Right now, it’s starting to look like you either are incapable of spotting an obvious fake, or that you don’t like facts get in the way of the story you want to tell. Neither is good for your credibility.”

        BOTH, and both are not good for the writer’s credibility.

      7. Nonsense. This is not a troll, indeed you are behaving more like one.

        A clock is bomb trigger. PIRA used to use simple analogue clocks as bomb triggers; any clock can be used to set off a bomb.

        I learnt about electronics in my degree, and taught it to aspiring commercial pilots. I learnt about bomb security in the RAF and the Royal Navy during the active PIRA terrorist campaign against the British forces, and in my training as a civilian pilot. So I know more about bomb security and more about electronics than most police officers, let alone school teachers. You are simply lying that this had anything to do with misunderstanding of electronics.

        The escalation was arguably excessive, but no more so than has happened on dozens of occasions with far less justification. Those cases are not arguable: they were objectively escalated far beyond what was jutified. This was far more like a bomb than a pink plastic bubble gun was like a firearm. In being identical to the most complicated part of a bomb, and the only part recognisable to a person without security training and testing equipment.

        Did you make a fuss of the escalation of a pop tart to a weapons threat? Or are you a bigot, only concerned with cases involving Muslims?

      8. I think you jumped the gun on the trolling claim. But I will agree that everyone went out of their freaking minds. And it went both ways, as even MIT got excited that this kid packed an old clock into a pencil case. But it is also shows the sad state of STEM education when teachers freak out so easily.

        And it was interesting to know the police took the kid into custody but the bomb squad never got involved (which reflects the fact they were certain it was not a bomb… I worked for the Va State Police in the mid 90’s and witnessed many a suspicious package get the “robot shotgun treatment” just to find someone forgot their briefcase)

    2. They dont care. It is click bait.
      Ahmed is a millionaires son, and his ‘alarm clock’ required being plugged into the wall and re-set to go off during class.

      Things like this are so asinine, so painful to watch, that it makes me question the allegiance i feel to social justice (a little). I support social justice – but I also support public school teachers – and in this case the kid hoaxed them.

      1. I support the proud job of being a teacher.

        I stopped supporting public school teachers when they showed no spine and give in to the ‘zero tolerance’ policies without any real fight. of course, the higher up the chain you go, the more blame there is, but the teachers take a no-risk view and don’t rock the boat or challenge authority anymore. their acceptance of the ‘culture of fear’ is part of the problem.

        we have a chance to have a national discussion on the zero tolerance concept, but are we taking that opp to intelligently discuss it and perhaps change it? we could make this incident into a change-factor. are we doing that? it does not seem so. the conservatives want to drown out the real issues by forcing their personal agendas.

        really a shame that each time a national story comes out and we have the chance to make changes – that we rarely ever do. I find that the saddest part. we double-down and dig in even more. rarely does any bad policy get reevaluated and changed, even after its brought to public attention.

        to me, this is the saddest part. that we all see how stupid zero-tol is – and yet there isn’t anyone in a position of power or authority who is man enough to speak up against it and try to get it changed.

        the whole thing is more a commentary on our society than it is about the kid, at this point.

        1. “Zero tolerance” has caused you to turn your back on the entire teaching profession?

          I am all for responding to problems with serious efforts to get to the root. But I also have a functioning BS meter. There are countless real cases in which schools and police go way overboard and begin committing crimes themselves. These cases are often swept under the rug while the communities pay millions in court costs.

          Why not use a real case, like one of those, to push this worthy agenda?

          Sure the kid may have been attacked, but if the truth is that he setup a provocative situation on purpose, which is suggested by the operation of common AC alarm clocks of that era, then in this case teachers are being attacked unfairly.

          Zero tolerance on things like possible or probably bomb hoaxes, that include a device plugged into the wall and set to go off during class is just common sense. They would have done this back when I was in high school also, pre 9/11, pre-columbine. There are many stories of kids getting in massive trouble for bomb hoaxes.

          1. I have a bit of a teaching background, but there’s no chance I would take a job in a school district. all I’ve heard about that lifestyle is that you have to follow rules, put your brain on-hold and its a very mechanical process, now. we teach to tests. we give everyone an award for fear of hurting feelings. I want no part of that; that’s not education, its indoctrination. that’s why I have no confidence in american schools, at least pre-college.

            zero tolerance removes judgement and thinking. I’m 100% against that. if you remove judgement from human beings, we are reduced to being robots.

          2. Would you say you have… zero tolerance.. for zero tolerance?

            Seriously though, any references or links on these ‘zero tolerance policies’? I am afraid I am not sure what exactly these policies are.

            I do not support most things like mandatory minimum sentences or zero policy rules. Zero policy when it comes to possible threats of violence or mass-violence makes sense to me though. And it is what I experienced in high school in the early 90s.

    3. I disagree–in my opinion, it doesn’t matter whether Ahmed’s clock is a from-scratch design or just an enclosure modification. He hacked something together and it got blown out of proportion by scared authorities that overreacted in a massively inappropriate fashion. The narrative [Mike] and many others in our community are pushing is important for many reasons, not the least of which is to counter the disturbingly persistent anti-Muslim attitude that can be so pervasive in the States.

      You think Ahmed’s clock sucks? Great–help kids like him make better clocks by posting your own.

      1. “help kids like him make better clocks”

        Try this: take your alarm clock, hit it with a hammer, throw all the pieces in a box. Take it to school, tell your teacher that it is scary, get arrested, tell everyone on twitter, get a bunch of donations, use that money to build a better clock. Note that this only works if you are a minority.

        1. “tell your teacher its scary”

          no, the stupid school admins and teachers shit their pants entirely on their own. the kid did not EVER say it was anything other than a clock he threw together in 20 minutes.

          even worse, when the cops questioned him, he answered them but they didn’t understand that, well, sometimes a cig^H^H^Hclock is just a clock.

          “but what’s its REAL purpose?”

          uhm, it shows the movement of time. you’ve heard of time, yeah? this measures it. that’s what clocks do.

          next up, we’ll dig deep into the true purpose of a spoon.

          1. Let’s be real here.

            This has nothing to do with people misunderstanding electronics, because anyone who does understand electronics also understands that to go from Ahmed’s clock to a real concealed time bomb just requires one to add the explosives. It’s already a concealed timer in an inconspicuous case that is capable of setting off a blasting cap without any further modifications.

            Ahmed’s clock was deliberately built to be as close to an IED as possible while still retaining plausible deniability – for the expicit purpose that the school would have to respond to it, and the family could play martyrs to the media over the fact.

    4. Yes, he took apart and repackaged a commercial clock. Other write ups have already gone so far as to identify the model. Who cares? Most of us got our start taking apart commercial products to see how they worked, re-use their parts, etc. Calling it his “invention” wasn’t a good choice of words by Ahmed, but he’s a ninth grader. Ninth graders, especially nerdy ones, are pretty awkward and trying to figure out where they fit in the world, and trying to impress people important to them.

      Pretty much everyone who makes things for fun uses commercial products at some level, and how deep you go depends on your skill level and where your interests lie. Kids, and some adults use a small Linux computer to flash an LED or read a sensor when a microprocessor would do just fine, and I don’t _care_, because what I consider important is that they are tinkering and learning and exploring. One day, they might be building things that matter, and that are new and exotic, but for now, they are learning, and not just consuming.

      Be sure to post the project where you built a clock out of transistors you made from sand when you were 14. I look forward to reading it.

      1. When I was 14, you could buy Heathkit or Dynaco kits that indeed required soldering individual resistors, capacitors and transistors onto printed circuit boards. If you wanted to do what Ahmed did, Radio Shack sold the guts of radio that you could install in your sister’s stuffed animal, but real geeks used kits or designed their own circuit boards. Later, you could buy breadboarding stuff at Radio Shack. There are plenty of 14 year old kids today who are actually designing circuits or building stuff with Arduino and Raspberry Pi. Praising Ahmed does them a disservice. Look at this video, and see what Ahmed is doing with a soldering iron (applying it to the component side of a circuit board) and tell me that this isn’t all theater. I’d be willing to bet that Ahmed can’t solder two wires together.

    5. I felt taken in by Ahmed’s clock too I bought the whole story he built it from scratch and so on, I then looked properly at the picture a few days later and thought he was a fraud. I checked some videos of others on youtube noticing the same things. I felt a bit annoyed I let myself get carried away with his story. I am a believer in equality for all race/religions. However I realised he is a 12yr old boy who made a cartoon style suitcase bomb the day after 9/11. I am not sure if someone put him up too it or not, But what he “made” was quite simple and could easily have been thought up by him.
      Hackaday should write an article correcting their position on the story, They like many were taken in by this story. It is nothing to be ashamed of I think many were. Do you think the Whitehouse, MIT, Facebook would have offered him support had they known the full truth? I don’t. While they nay never admit they were taken in Hackaday has a duty to Correct it’s position as they are always pointing out inconsistances with other people’s Stories.

      1. if you think that ‘how much invention went into the build’ is the point of this story, you are being conned by the conservative talking heads. that talking point is really all the haters have, so they are rallying around this level of derp in order to change the real issue, here.

        1. No Where I live in Scotland we don’t have Fox news or people shouting at us through the TV telling us too hate people. I came up with my views myself. My point is he done it for a reaction day after 9/11? had toplug it in in class set the alarm to go off? The teachers didn’t think it was a bomb the moved it left it in another room with the boy alone until the police got there. He made a cartoon bomb not a clock.

        2. If you think “how much invention went into the build” is irrelevant to the story then you are being conned by the socialist talking heads. That talking point is essential to the bigoted haters who refuse, solely based on his religion, to accept that a kid with a fake bomb should be challenged while agreeing that a kid with a pop tart or a bubble gun should be suspended, because guns are dangerous, even pretend guns that look nothing like the real thing, and Muslims have never tried to use bombs to kill people.

  2. Giving deserving young hackers scholarships and equipment would be good for society.

    Giving MILIONAIRE KIDS free stuff because they cannot follow rules or avoid pulling hoaxes\pranks is not good for society.

    Why is HAD quadrupling down on a story that involves a rich kid kid plugging a fake bomb into the wall socket and interrupting class?

    1. we are technically minded, here, and many of us (myself included) can remember back when we were kids and did things like this. I won’t list what I did as a kid, but it would have gotton me in trouble in today’s zero-tol school world.

      we rallied around the kid because he was attacked for multiple reasons. most reasonable people now see how absurd the zero-tol policy is. are we talking about changing that, though? NO! the conservative hate-mongers try to change the dialog and shift it to meet their agenda.

      pretty disgusting.

      one poster (on another forum) was right. the most amazing thing is that the kid produced a ‘moron detector’ and even though its been unplugged for days, it still continues to work!

      1. I also built tons of things as a kid. Starting at a young age, and without millionaire parents or the internet, or high quality award winning schools to help me. Dont forget where you are posting.

        The clock he used had to be plugged into the wall, set to go off that period, and allowed to go off.. The teacher involved is being attacked for thinking this was potentially a hoax bomb, when it looks just like a bomb in many ways.

        He did create a moron detector- anyone lauding him and sending him free things for disrupting class is a moron!

        I am not attacking the kid. This is a issue of truth vs BS. I am leftist and personally believe police often racially profile, and that societies tiered class structure is unacknowledged and built partially unfairly on things like where you were born and what race you are.

        Giving MIT scholarships out randomly is sad to see for someone who had to work hard all through all of high school.

        1. Eh,.. I am not ‘sad’ actually.. Scratch that. I find this to have been a high-quality prank if it was in fact that. Truly epic work if the goal was provocative and not hacker related.. If it was being discussed as a culture-hack, total kudos.

          Also screw it – all kids should get free college.

          1. Just make high school as tough as it was in 1890. I think with free college you need professors who teach for free and buildings that are built for free and free electric power and heating. And a grounds crew and staff that work for free just for the fun of it. And why stop there? Why not free food and housing for life? Or make college free and 12 years long and all electives. Then you labor in the fields and camp for 20 year then get to go back to free college for retirement. Yeah, that’s the ticket! We can pay for by doing each other’s laundry!

        2. what companies sent him or offered him is 100% irrelevant. the fact that he simply reboxed a clock is also 100% irrelevant.

          the only thing relevant is our reaction in this day and age; and how it would have been different only just 10 or 20 years ago.

          this is what has to be discussed. the kid is not the issue and the fact that it got so much public attention and yet, we STILL have not had a national honest discussion about zero-tol – that is really the elephant in the room.

          does the kid ‘deserve’ gifts from corporations? I could care less. not relevant. incidental, at best, but still not relevant. of all the injustices in the world, a company rising to grab some attention for itself is not newsworthy, and, in fact, I think less of companies who jumped on this PR bandwagon, doing it entirely for the pure PR value, likely not caring one bit for the actual specifics of this case.

          1. No.. As a rabble rousing free thinker who always noticed the police racially profiling, the schools over reacting, I have long been bemused and discouraged by society.

            But lies are lies, and this entire news story is a lie.. I was on Ahmed’s side till I saw the clock, then still had some credulousness left over that lasted up until everyone started claiming the kid is a genius.

            Kid probably belongs expelled and with a record, not at google science fair upstaging and pretending to be as smart as the little geniuses that are there legitimately.

    2. you want to talk about millionaire kids getting things?

      oh dea, where shall we start? you really want to talk about the haves and the have-nots in this country?

      lets talk about that, then. lets talk about the fact that its ‘who you know, not what you know’ more and more in this country. that you cannot simply get ahead based on ability, alone. that other factors will help you and also hurt you, not having anything to do with your ability.

      we can have that discussion. you want to? it would be a bit more productive than beating THIS old, dead horse.

      in the US, the elite get all the chances and the working class guys are kept down. upward mobility is a lie, here. you want to talk about that, I’m more than willing to get into this subject matter.

      1. I am afraid I consider these statements to be misguided in multiple ways. You do realize the kid is a millionaire. He has hundreds of times more money than my family did growing up. So seriously, check your rhetoric.

        Use real cases to push real issues, or the scurrilous right wing WILL ALWAYS HAVE A TIT FOR TAT GOTCHA.

        People reading here maybe didnt read the coverage elsewhere.The kid was lauded as a genius, and his own intentions went unquestioned. Both of these were wrong narratives. False. Lies.. Media lies in our era of endless war and unaccountable power.

        People have no core values, and you prove it with your wishy-washy attempt at reasoning.

        1. only in your mind was he ‘lauded as a genius’. and his family’s weath matters – HOW, again? oh right, it doesn’t.

          but keep farking that chicken. maybe you’ll get the result you are after.

          1. Are you daft? You just rambled on about how the wealthy have more opportunities than the “working class guys”, then someone mentioned that the kid’s family was wealthy. And you don’t see the connection? Buddy, if you’re not getting the opportunities you want, it might be because you can’t hold a consistent thought from one moment to the next.

  3. Personally I find this entire clock fiasco to be funny, sad, annoying and interesting.

    I love politics. I find people trying to apply a political narrative, to what is clearly a prank or attention grab, to be quite silly. I, too, could have dismantled a clock, put it in a case, plugged it in, set the time and the alarm and have it set off during class. During my era, I’d have likely been told to go to the principal’s office. Or told to unplug that annoying item.

    Politically, people being right or left has little to do with this case. Looking at it politically, there are multiple interpretations. For example, zero tolerance policy: Left or right issue? Police being called: Left or right issue? The inability for someone to think about the situation: Left or right issue? He is muslim but is that a left or right issue? Hell, there was a kid who chewed a pop-tart into the shape of a pistol and zero-tolerance was invoked. He was white. My point is, the system is there. It is perverted to serve the needs of those at the top, regardless of political affiliation.

    Now, HaD has picked up on this meme and is running with it. Is it a call to more education? Or is it a cheap manipulation of current (and political) events in the effort to fuel click and perhaps, outrage?

    The news went around the world on what was obviously a false, misleading narrative. Some will take advantage for many reasons. MS sent the kid a load of crap and they come out looking good. Twitter, FB and MIT… let’s see where this kid is in the future…

    1. They should tell the truth.. A media outlet telling the truth is basically an unexpected ‘hack of expectations’ anyway.

      They should admitt that any large story will always be played for both controversy and potential gain. It is the ‘no crisis goes unexploited’ mentality, and some people consider it to be practical because of the potential quick-gains it can allow on a topic.

      This story is extremely similar to the Mike Brown\Fergusson one.

      The media popularized an initial account that did not admit the entire scope of the story. They allowed people to think Mike was out minding his own business. Then it came out that Mike had robbed a store earlier that day. The media admitted the DOJ told them not to publish that fact ‘fearing public safety’. Now, in reality they withheld that fact to facilitate the arrival of professional activists who then took over on the ground. That event allowed both the right and left to feel slighted and righteous. This was done on purpose and amplified by the Don Lemon\Dan Page pageantry.

      This is the exact same thing. The media knew that the kid almost certainly pulled an actual hoax. They choose to hide this, then allow the ‘right wing blogs’ to point out what are obviously true facts about the device – thereby allowing, as usual, this idiotic and false dual narrative to thrive.

      It most certainly is about right vs left, the way the media treated it.

      1. I am not disagreeing with you. I hate the exploitation and manipulation of a story to force a mindset, as it sounds like you do. Whether it is WMDs or WMS (Weapons of mass stupidity). This was a kid either trying to show off, pull a prank or seem far smarter than he is. It backfired in the micro scenario, but once the media caught a nice little narrative, it turned out to be better for him. I live miles from that school district. All the districts here in the DFW area have similar mindsets.

        The storytelling/narrative has allowed people to come out self-righteous for the wrong reasons. I weep for our lack of collective reasoning skills. Anyone who cared to look at the story and evaluate it could see it for what it is. But then again, we have a political class that thrives on ignorance.

        1. Yes, I know, and I appreciate that.. I just feel right vs left is central to the issue.

          As a teen not much older than Ahmed, in addition to running a dial-up BBS and going to underground punk shows – I was into reading philosophers and media like Cult of the Dead Cow, Jean Baudrillard and his Hyperreality, Focault and his simulacrum.

          I am disgusted by our media, politics, etc. Reality is whoever shouts loudest in our society, and while it will never change, I still need to vent sometimes.

          For obvious reasons I have not been able to share my views on Ahmed with my friends or colleagues. They saw 1 news item about it, and went with whatever that news article said. If i tried to explain that ‘no, i did more research and can compare it to similar news narratives and identify the possible agenda at play’ – i come off looking like a lunatic.

          Baudrillard and Foucault both touch on this aspect of culture-hacking – that you can use these sorts of ingrained reactions to very carefully and specifically shape a dialog.

          1. You ran a BBS, too? Cult of the Dead Cow… haven’t come across that in ages.

            It disgusts me our entire media is centered on the latest color some Kardashian is wearing. And I hate myself a little bit for knowing how to spell it. I couldn’t pick a Kardashian out of a line up of two people, though.

            The mainstream media has no depth but is simply a vapid medium for eyeballs and clicks. The truth only needs to be plausible. Or true for the moment. Reporting now is reduced to reading Tweets off a screen. If I wanted random people’s opinion on crap, I’d read it myself rather than having a curated, synthesized version that matches someone else’s preconceived notions of what I should care and think about.

            I get your frustration. Trust me.

        2. More like a media class that thrives on drive-by stories. The drive by, shoot the truth full of holes, keep it alive for 48 hours or more then move on. The bad part is they use the misinformation form each drive-by as material to support the next one! Pretty soon there will be an epidemic of of schools “over-reacting” to bomb-like devices. I’m working on one now! I think it will get me an NSF grant if I use a Gucci bag.

  4. The guy who made the youtube video deconstructing the clock missed the plot.

    He could have proceeded to take the clock and figure out if it can beep without being plugged into the wall.

    The device we have seen has no battery, but supposing it did have a battery, exactly what functionality did it provide? Time backup, or actual alarm functionality.

    All of my similar alarm clock only had the battery to protect about intermittent power outages resetting the clock and alarm – and did not operate the alarm itself.

    If the clock had a battery or not, it would appear Ahmed took the device, plugged it into a wall outlet, and set the alarm to go off that period. This can be shown to be much more likely if the battery does not power the alarm.

    If the battery was not present, Ahmed had to take several specific steps to make the clock go off in class. 1) Find a outlet 2) set the time 3)set the alarm 4)wait

    Without a battery he had to still 1) Find an outlet 2)previously have set the time and alarm 3)wait.

    It is simple deductive thinking involved here.. very simple.

    1. Fine. Let’s say the battery couldn’t sound a pre-set alarm. Let’s say the kid plugged it in in class to disrupt the class, because he, like many kids that age, want the attention of their peers.

      Do you think the response was warranted? Being sent by the teacher to the principal’s office, sure, for misbehavior. But calling in the police and not his parents? Getting handcuffed? For the authorities to suggest that he was building a bomb?

      1. Fine indeed. If the event was provocative, then it follows the device must be investigated because of it’s real and factual similarity to IEDs. Go ahead and argue it is nothing like a bomb, but you are simply wrong. Wrong I say! (lol)

        Anyway – he wasnt charged, he was questioned.

        His family made the media circus happen, ensuring if he wasnt heckled before, he will be now.

        Again – he provoked this entire outcome. The media LIED on day 1. Day one the fact that he had to specifically nurture and provoke this outcome was totally ignored, even though it is obvious to anyone paying any attention.

        Should we give the media a pass for lying because they are expected to lie?

        Should we give naive individuals a pass because being naive is common?

      2. This is meant nicely — do you have a kid in public school? If you do, then you know that any tackling on the playground, any harsh word to a classmate, any sort of threat triggers a rule-bound process that the district is *legally bound* to follow. If those rules include calling the police then they must call the police. If it crosses a certain threshold for the police, *especially regarding potential school violence*, then the police must apply cuffs, etc.

        “Warranted” is irrelevant. “Mandated” is the key. “Deserve’s got nothin’ to do with it.” Change the “mandated” if you want to see a response that is warranted. Good luck with your local School Board.

      3. You are aware that kids have been suspended for taking a pop tart and biting it into the shape of a gun and going “pow pow pow”

        When our public school teachers aren’t raping kids, they are hammering down any creativity they might encounter.

      4. Did you make this fuss over a far younger child who was suspended for “shooting” a friend with a bubble “gun”? Oh, no, that was a white child. Silly me. Bigots only make a fuss when the story relates to privileged groups such as black, Hispanic, Muslim (no non-Islamic Asians), gay, or someone who wishes to use the bathrooms of the other sex who are looking for attention.

    2. Did you actually test it? Apparently, on most of these clocks the battery backup provides alarm functionality but doesn’t operate the display – so even though the clock looks like it’s powered down the alarm will still go off. It’s a surprising feature that most people don’t seem to realise exists, because unless your alarm happens to go off in the middle of a power cut and you’re awake and alert at the time you’re not going to notice it. (Also, you can see the board with the time-setting buttons flapping around loose, so the time it went off at probably wasn’t anywhere near the time Ahmed originally had it set to – and there’d be no way for him to see what had happened without plugging the clock in to the mains.)

      1. I had one not work for me once, so yes I tested it. Casual googling seems to show 3:1 or 4:1 my expierence vs your conjecture. It would seem that most battery backups on 70s-80s era alarm clocks only keep time, not operate the alarm. One exception seems to be radio-alarm clocks set to radio for wake up – apparently these might work. I didnt try that.

  5. There are plenty of posts here about case mods, and they get admiring replies. (snark)Case modders don’t invent anything! They just took a commercial product and unscrewed somethings and cut some holes. That doesn’t count! Ben Heck is a poseur! (/snark)

    Jesus Christ — nobody here thinks the kid is a genius. Nobody here thinks the kid built a clock from transistors and passives. Stop pointing it out, over and over and over as if we didn’t already understand that, as if that somehow was proof that this kid deserved to be handcuffed and questioned by the police even though NOBODY actually thought it was dangerous.

    The fledgling nerd, that scrawny kid with the NASA t-shirt and the cobbled together project reminds me of 13 year old me who had enough skill to put together radio shack p-box kits, but didn’t really understand the circuitry. One year my grandmother convalesced at our house after breaking her hip in a fall. She had the habit of getting out of bed in the middle of the night, getting disoriented, then wetting herself because she couldn’t find the bathroom. I built an oscillator circuit from the components removed from my 65-in-1 kit and mounted the ugly mess in a can and set up a string across her bed which would trigger a switch and set off the alarm in my parents bedroom. It was about as ugly as Ahmed’s clock, and I didn’t invent anything, and didn’t know how the oscillator worked.

    My parents praised me for that alarm, as primitive as it was. Everyone starts somewhere.

    1. “The fledgling nerd, that scrawny kid with the NASA t-shirt and the cobbled together project reminds me of ”

      This poignant image is why the media lied to us – they couldn’t help themselves, apparently it is in their nature to lie for money.

      1. Yes, the media loves a scrum.

        But the people here who conjecture that the kid and/or is father built this thing with the expectation that the police would handcuff the kid and parlay it into a trip to the white house and gifts from Microsoft are pushing what seems to me to be a very improbably scenario. The people who shit on the kid because his hack wasn’t impressive enough are just mean spirited, or blinded by their desire to justify that the kid got handcuffed.

        1. Given what happened, he is lucky he wasnt charged.. That is just common sense.

          If the media had not jumped in with a partial story and his father wasnt rich enough to afford lawyers, the kid would have been charged.

          He was suspended for plugging the device in, setting it. letting it go off.

        2. His father has “run for President” of Sudan, and he once drove the whole family to Florida to participate in a public debate with Rev. Terry Jones about Koran burning. And his uncle just registered a corporation named “Twin Towers Transportation.” The idea that this family would do something something for the sole purpose of creating controversy and publicity is not so far-fetched.

          1. I support any effort to confront Terry Jones. That guy is a creep and any person of any creed or race was fully in the right to confront him.

            However, the narrative on the clock is sketchy to the point of being likely fraud.

    2. They think if they keep screaming about how the kid isn’t a genius and didn’t invent anything cool and doesn’t deserve all the attention he’s getting we’ll forget about how the story was actually about him being the victim of racist harassment.

      1. There is zero credible evidence this was about racial harrassment. Ahmed’s sister was suspended in the past for making a bomb threat, and so the cops knew the family name. Which is why the cop expected it to be him.

        Ahmed has admitted he thought the clock was suspicious before he even brought it to school. He admits he have no assignment or school project. That his Islamic activist father encouraged him to bring it in. This despite several school rules against doing that. His first period teacher was the one he claimed to want to show it to and she told him not to show it to anybody else. So his claimed purpose was served. Yet he shows it again and again. Why? Finally he plugs it in and sets it to go off in English class, which disrupts the class. To the English teacher it looks like a hoax movie bomb. Which it does. So she confiscates it. There are mandatory reporting rules so she reports this violation of several rules agains bringing things to school.

        So where is the racism?

  6. I built a clock over the last couple of days. I was actually planning on building a filament clock like mikeselectricstuff, but I also busted out pic16f648, 75hc595, 32KHz crystal, and this neat little LED matrix display and created a clock from scratch. It was a fun couple days after work project, and a good primer into the larger clock later on. I might make this into a watch or something, we’ll see.

    For an alarm function, maybe I’ll make it say “boom”

  7. Anybody heard about Mohammad’s lil’ sis? Suspended for making bomb threat. How about his uncle? He runs a trucking company called “Twin Towers Transportation”. What will it take for people to admit this was a set-up? But the reals questions are why did you fall for it so hard? Did you WANT it to be true? Did the media WANT to believe it? Why?

    1. Yes, I saw those stories too. Add to that the fact that while the police chief and school officials were waiting for a meeting with Ahmed’s father, the father had bypassed the meeting and was holding a press conference where he could cry “racism…bigotry..waaaaa”. But ANY student, regardless of race, who brought a device resembling parts of an IED to school would expect to be questioned by authorities.

      Whatever happened to “see something…say something”? Now we are being conditioned to “see something”, then keep quiet, or the whole world will denounce you as a racist and you’ll get death threats (like the police chief and the school officials are getting.)

  8. Blown out of proportion story at best; media, politicians and their silicon valley cronies jumping to advance a narrative at worst.

    Fact is, though, that these days most kids his age probably wouldn’t be able to disassemble a clock. If that’s MIT’s standard for admittance, that’s their prerogative…

    1. Correction: He actually didn’t disassemble a clock. He took off the outer casing and placed the innards in a new casing… still not genius; still most kids his age wouldn’t be able to do it

  9. According to the police, Ahmed’s clock looked suspiciously like parts of an IED. So anybody, including a white kid, purple kid, or my blonde non-Muslim daughter, who brought a device like that to school would be questioned by the authorities. Why does the media persist in making this about prejudice and bigotry? Whatever happened to “see something.. say something”? Now it’s “see something” and then be quiet or you’ll be called a racist.

    Now the local school officials and the police chief are receiving death threats for being “bigots” when they are following standard guidelines for protecting school children. Are those people making those death threats really so tolerant, or are they displaying hatred too?

    1. See something, say something, unless the person you’re looking at happens to match the racial characteristics of past terrorists. Then you’d better just shut up. Kind of ironic, no?

  10. When I was younger I would mouth the word “vacuum” just to shock people. It tickled me to have them believe I had said the unthinkable. If my brother saw a cop lying in wait by the side of the road, he would pretend not to notice, pull over, open the trunk, look around furtively, and sneak a drink of pop just hoping for the police to accuse him of underage drinking. I’m assuming most of us were that childish, at least sometimes.

    Now imagine being that age and having parents who want to claim victimhood. We ALL know it was done on purpose to scare/puzzle/anger/embarrass school authorities. I don’t understand the motive for pretending otherwise. Is it to save face? Is it to look more virtuous? Newsflash: you look silly and pathetic and weak. Strength lies in honest self-critique: we screwed up; we were conned; our own innate niceness blinded us for a while.

  11. I love that Ahmed’s Dad ran for the president of Sudan twice while living in Texas. If he thinks his family are victims of anti-Muslim bias, I’m sure Sudan is a more proper and welcoming environment. Ahmed could go to their MIT-equivalent. It would be wonderful.

  12. If what Ahmed did is such a great idea why not encourage everyone to put clock parts in a case and bring it to school as a show of support.

    Better yet, everyone should bring one on a commercial airliner, or the White House…

    1. Even better: Ahmed could “invent” a personal flotation device by taking apart a boating lifejacket and putting the bulky foam pieces inside a regular vest, then wearing that vest under his jacket when he visits the White House.

  13. Small follow up – Ahmed has admitted he plugged it in. No media person will ask him why he did that.

    There is a weird photo of all the actual science kids at googles science fair pointing at Ahmed….. Maybe they are pointing at the one kid there who cannot do science at all because he does not fit in among them?

  14. Seriously.. In his own words”

    “It was something really simple to me,” the 14-year-old Texas boy explained. “I didn’t have to look it up, the only thing I had to look up was the receipt for the box. It’s really simple to me, because I built more stuff that’s really complicated, like CPUs and soldering them. But the clock, it was simple, and some of the parts were scrapped off, so that’s how it got easier.”

    Wilmore, who said the teen’s story resonated with him as a fellow “nerd,” asked the teen whether he felt like his arrest had earned him some “street cred.”

    “It was kind of cool,” Mohamed said, blushing. “The only reason I felt cool about it was that I knew I was innocent, and I knew that if I took it to court I would win.”

    1. “I would say my next invention would be a side hoverboard,” Mohamed said. “There’s, like, these forward ones that go back and reverse.”

      Clearly a genius… I feel bad for the Google Science Fair kids who had to be part of this nonsense. Real science kids with real science fair projects can be incredible. But instead the country gets this smirking lawsuit hounding fraud to represent makers.

  15. More grandstanding to, possibly with racial overtones, smear the police and school:

    Today, Mohamed’s family announced that they had hired two attorneys to help retrieve the science project from Texas police. However, BuzzFeed reports, police say that they already notified the family that the clock is available for pickup—and has been since last week, when the case against Mohamed was closed.

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