CUPERTINO, CA—Brent Barlow, 27, a software analyst and beta-tester at Apple Computer headquarters in Cupertino, was fired Monday for "thinking a little too different."

A 1998 photo of Apple software analyst Brent Barlow, who was recently fired for "thinking too far outside the box."

Apple spokespersons said the firing was necessary because Barlow "consistently failed to adhere to the normal standards of conduct and daily routines expected of employees of Apple Computer."

Among the floutings of convention cited in Barlow's Apple employee file: developing a pulley system to store his mountain bike above his workstation, listening to Bob Dylan on his headphones while testing software, and taking barefoot walks around the Apple campus to "feel more connected to the creative energy of others."

"It's okay to think outside the box," said Avie Tevanian, Apple senior vice-president of software engineering. "In fact, we very much encourage that sort of thing here at Apple. But in Mr. Barlow's case, he went just a bit too far."

Barlow was first written up in September 1996, when he was cited for "unprofessional and inappropriate personal modifications to his workspace." In addition to taped-up pictures of Mahatma Gandhi, Albert Einstein and R. Buckminster Fuller, Barlow painted a large red question mark on the side of his monitor, scanned and displayed a non-approved desktop screen image of Jim Henson, and replaced his computer's trademarked Apple system beep with a snippet of the John Lennon song "Imagine."

"I like to explore problems from unusual angles," said the ponytailed Barlow, cleaning out the desk he has occupied since joining Apple in 1995. "And being in a free-form environment of my own creation really helps me get in the right frame of mind."

Barlow's most recent formal write-up came last Thursday, when his team supervisor caught him doing a headstand.

"I was stuck on this bug I discovered in the new Mac OS X system software that Apple's developing. No matter what I tried, nothing worked," Barlow said. "So I thought to myself, what I need to do is turn my whole approach to this problem upside-down. And what better way to do that than by standing on your head?"

In an effort to prevent such incidents of "excessive iconoclasm" in the future, Apple has developed a manual outlining the company's rules and regulations regarding individualism. Permitted will be such unorthodox activities as removing shoes when seated or within four feet of a desk; whistling when given prior written permission from a direct supervisor; and kicking puddles, provided the kicking is conducted during one's lunch hour and the puddle is one of the 35 on the Apple campus specifically designated for such a purpose. Prohibited will be such "gratuitously idiosyncratic" behaviors as singing out loud, flying kites and catching butterflies.

"Of course, we want our employees to be individuals and 'do their own thing,' so to speak," Apple director of corporate communications Michael Landau said. "But Mr. Barlow's behavior consistently crossed the line. If he wants to think that different, he can do it on his own time."