Would you believe that Apple co-founder, Steve Wozniak was arrested for building a fake bomb while he was in high school? For such an innocent and cheerful looking man, this would at first seem impossible, or at least improbable. But if you take the word of the man himself, and some others, this really happened.
Steve Wozniak is best known as one of the co-founders of tech giant Apple. It was his personal development of the Apple I computer, and the genius of Steve Jobs in identifying that Wozniak’s homemade computer was something that had never been seen before, that launched him to fame. But if he was born only 35 years later, one event from his high school years could have prevented this from happening.
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Perhaps one of the most recent events of tech being taken the wrong way that springs to mind is the unfortunate event that saw a young Muslim teenager arrested for making a clock and taking it to school to impress his teacher. As just about everyone in the world knows, when Ahmed Mohamed presented his engineering teacher with his clock that he constructed at home, it didn’t really impress his teacher. It did quite the opposite instead. For some weird reason, the teacher and authorities thought that the homemade clock was a homemade bomb. Even though Ahmed presented it as a clock. He was promptly arrested.
Now, as we know, young Ahmed’s story ended well. The story travelled around the world, and gained a huge amount of traction on social networks. The US president, celebrities and scientists from around the world applauded Ahmed on his work. But did you know that Ahmed’s story is a little similar to one of the world’s great engineering minds? Back when he was a teenager himself, Steve Wozniak of Apple fame went through a similar experience. But it’s worth pointing out that unlike Ahmed, he probably deserved what he got.
Not long after the story of Ahmed surfaced, Steve Wozniak revealed that he was arrested for making a fake bomb while in high school. Far out, right? Not true and surely made up. Well, it’s unbelievable true.
Back in 1967, Wozniak, a bit of a prankster, decided to make a fake bomb and place it inside a locker at his school. He realized that a metronome sounded a bit like a timer on a bomb ticking away, and thought a prank was the way to go. So how did he do it?
He took an electronic metronome, removed the stickers from batteries and taped them together, and used a tin-foil switch to speed up the ticking when the locker door was opened. A bit of simplicity built in with some ingenuity, if you ask me. And it worked, too well.
The school principle, Principal Bryld, quickly grabbed the unexploded metronome, bravely placed it across his chest and ran from the building across the football field and disarmed it. Not very long afterwards a young Steve Wozniak was called to the principal’s office. But there to meet him were law enforcement officers. Uh oh.
Steve Wozniak ended up spending the night in juvenile detention for his prank. But getting caught and going to juvie didn’t quite have the immediate desired result. While there he showed the other inmates how to remove the wires from the overhead fans and electrify the metal bars so that whenever anyone touched them they got a bit of a shock. Pretty cool for a guy with a net worth of around $100 million.
Needless to say, he ended calming down quite a bit as he matured. And if his fortunes are anything to go by, Ahmed could be in store for greatness.
From the most creative people I meet in high tech, I’d suggest that slight misbehavior is an essential ingredient of creative thinking.