(Vanity Fair) – There was no shortage of support for the 14-year-old Texas boy arrested for bringing a homemade clock, which his teachers mistook for a bomb, to school.
On Wednesday, President Obama asked Ahmed Mohamed in a tweet if he wanted to bring the clock to the White House. He also scored an invite to Facebook from Mark Zuckerberg himself, who posted, “Having the skill and ambition to build something cool should lead to applause, not arrest. The future belongs to people like Ahmed.” Even Twitter offered him an internship, and promptly verified his Twitter account.
This public outpouring came after news surfaced that Mohamed was arrested for bringing a homemade clock to school, in the hopes of impressing his new engineering teacher on his first day of high school. When the clock, which he described to the Dallas Morning News as a “a circuit board and power supply wired to a digital display, all strapped inside a case with a tiger hologram on the front,” started beeping in English class later that day, the teacher called the police, and Mohamed was arrested and taken to a juvenile detention center.
This is not the first time a budding tech wunderkind found himself in handcuffs for his talent and ingenuity instead of being praised for it. In fact, he is in pretty impressive company.
Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak was also arrested for what a high-school principal thought was a bomb after he heard it beeping, according to Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs. What he heard was actually a metronome.
Here is the excerpt from the book:
In twelfth grade he built an electric metronome—one of those devises that keep time in music class—and realized it sounded like a bomb. So he took the labels off some of the big batteries, taped them together, and put it in a school locker; he rigged it to start ticking faster when the locker opened. Later that day he got called to the principal’s office. He thought it as because he had won, yet again, the school’s top math prize. Instead he was confronted by the police. The principal had been summoned when the device was found, bravely ran onto the football field clutching it to his chest, and pulled the wires off. Woz tried and failed to suppress his laughter. He actually got sent to the juvenile detention center, where he spent the night. It was a memorable experience. He taught the other prisoners how to disconnect the wires leading to the ceiling fans and connect them to the bars so people got shocked when touching them.
Wozniak posted on his Facebook page that Mohamed’s story took him back to his high school days. In reply to some comments on his post, Wozniak called Mohamed a “modern day hero” to people like him.
“From the most creative people I meet in high tech, I’d suggest that slight misbehavior is an essential ingredient of creative thinking,” he wrote.
VF.com has reached out to Wozniak, and will update this post if we receive word.
In the meantime, Ahmed says he hopes his own story can inspire people to try and make their dreams a reality. “Go for it,” he said on Wednesday. “Don’t let people change who you are.”