February 04, 2011

Zuckerberg's Propensity to Programming Started as a Boy, His Dad Argues

Some kids find a second home on the basketball early in their childhood, easily tossing the ball through the hoop at age three. Others leap and sache across the stage in a pretty pink tutu as their parents sit teary-eyed in the audience realizing untapped potential.

But for Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of the social media site Facebook (News - Alert), while his talent also came at a young age, it was for a something a bit more unconventional that didn’t require sporting equipment or flashy costumes. Instead, all that was necessary was a keyboard and Internet access.

“My kids all grew up around the office and were all exposed to computers," Mark’s father, dentist Dr. Edward Zuckerberg, said during a radio interview today, reports the Associated Press (News - Alert). "There are advantages to being exposed to computers early on. That certainly enriched Mark's interest in technology."

According to Edward, his son’s acumen with programming was apparent from the time Mark was a young boy. Edward picked up on his son’s skill after Edward computerized his offices in 1985 and introduced to his son the "latest high-tech toy” at the time, an early Atari 800.

"It came with a disk for programming," he told radio host Paul Feiner, with the Westchester- based WVOX station in New York. "I thought Mark might be interested and I imparted that knowledge to him. From there it took off."

After that, while other kids were making time to study for their algebra test or read the latest “Harry Potter” novels, Mark was immersed in his book on programming, according to his dad. But, ultimately, his son’s ability to program was self-taught, he said.

Although critics and the directors of “The Social Network,” a film that follows Mark’s journey in creating Facebook, have painted Mark as a socially awkward, arrogant young man, his dad offers a different picture.

According to Edward, when his son was named Time magazine's person of the year, Mark remarked that "It must have been a really slow year.”

“He’s very humble,” Edward said.

When asked if his son’s modesty was conveyed properly in "The Social Network," Edward said, "If I sat back and looked at it as a movie and not as a story about my son, it was a tolerable experience." But, he said, there were parts of the movie "which did not accurately reflect the way certain situations occurred. That was disturbing to me."

Humble he may be, but Mark is also healthily rich as Mark is the youngest self-made billionaire in the world. By the end of January, Mark made another tidy profit when Facebook raised more than $1 billion from non–U.S. investors, which combined with an infusion from Goldman Sachs and Russia's Digital Sky Technologies in December, brought the haul from its latest round of funding to $1.5 billion.

Currently, discussion is ensuing as to when the Facebook empire will have an initial public offering (IPO).

The proud father of a self-made millionaire took time on air today to answer a handful of questions from Feiner and callers as to the best ways to parent and how to support a child seeking to become a mogul. His advice – provide unconditional support.

"Probably the best thing I can say is something that my wife and I have always believed in," Edward said. "Rather than impose upon your kids or try and steer their lives in a certain direction, to recognize what their strengths are and support their strengths and support the development of the things they're passionate about."

Looks like this is one passion that took Mark farther than the dinky basketball court and stage with poor, fluorescent lighting ever could.  

Carrie Schmelkin is a Web Editor for TMCnet. Previously, she worked as Assistant Editor at the New Canaan Advertiser, a 102-year-old weekly newspaper, covering news and enhancing the publication’s social media initiaitives. Carrie holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a bachelor’s degree in English from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. To read more of her articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Carrie Schmelkin




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