M1 MacBook Air won’t let me log in

I have a challenge brought me by my mom. She has a new M1 MacBook Air and she couldn’t get logged into it last night. It’s not accepting her password on the Lock Screen, but she’s also noticing that there is an ABC with a keyboard icon next to the battery indicator on the upper right of the screen. Also of note is that the clock display is about 2 hours slow right now.

She asked me for any help and I didn’t know what to tell her as all my research brought me no answers. She called Apple Support and unfortunately, they didn’t know and told her to take it into the nearest Apple Store, which is more than 120 miles away from her. Not the answer I want her to go do…especially because she’s 80 years old. (Yes, my mom has used Macs for years and loves her new M1, even though she’s running into this issue)

Does anyone know the meaning of the ABC in the corner? Any other ideas for what may be the problem? I had suggested she ensure that the CAPS lock was not on and she says it’s not.

Here is a picture of the upper right of the screen

ABC appears to be a language setting. I just enabled it on my non-M1 and it seems like a normal US keyboard layout. I can’t get it to output anything weird typing or adding modifier keys or caps lock - it behaves like a normal Querty keyboard. Even if it’s not doing anything, can she click the ABC and change it to her normal keyboard?

Screen Shot 2021-01-23 at 11.15.31 AM

The clock thing seems suspicious. I would look in to that as well. Maybe some sort of SMC/Pram reset might help it, or she might need to get into recovery. I’ll let others speculate more.

I have noticed that after a reboot the clock is often ‘reset’ to the US/Pacific timezone, which is -3 hours for me in US/Eastern. Are you, by chance, in US/Central (Chicago, etc) or similar time zone?

This issue seems to resolve itself when I log in, so I’m guessing this is just a case of the M1 Macs defaulting to “home” (Cupertino time zone) when they can’t, for some reason, figure out their actual time zone.

As for the actual issue, I think I would try to walk her through booting into one of the alternative start-up modes and see if any of those will help.

The process for doing so has changed, and I’m afraid I’m not sure exactly what to recommend, but I would start looking at potentially useful articles here:

Howard Oakley’s site is a treasure-trove of useful information, and I would trust anything he has written.