Rick Friedman/Corbis via Getty Images
- Many, if not all, of today’s most famous tech executives have loved computers and programming from an early age.
- Tesla’s Elon Musk designed a space-themed video game at the age of 12, while Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg was offered $1 million for software he created before he even attended Harvard.
- While many tech CEOs aspired to be on the developing side of technology throughout their careers, most have switched over to the business side.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
As a child growing up in South Africa, Elon Musk was fascinated with space.
When Mark Zuckerberg was a teenager, he frequently became frustrated when a playlist would end, thinking of ways to improve upon music recommendation software.
And Bill Gates, ever the whiz kid, was drafted by a company to develop technology at 16 and sometimes worked 18-hour days.
Many famous tech CEOs have always loved the nitty-gritty development side of the industry — often creating their own video games and software and writing code from a very young age.
However, today, some tech execs are not as involved in the engineering side of the companies they head, but instead serve as the face of some of the largest companies in the world.
Here are the earliest software programs, video games, and technological endeavors by some of the today’s most successful and well-known tech executives.
Before becoming the philanthropic billionaire he is today, Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates developed a course scheduling software for this high school as a teen. Not only did his school notice his gift for technology, but so did TRW, an automotive company based in Michigan. There, a 16-year-old Gates helped create and develop energy software, for often 18 hours a day.
Susan Walsh/AP Photo
As a teen, Gates also met Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen, where they immediately bonded over their love for technology. Allen and Gates then founded Traf-o-Data, their first company where they collected traffic data and sold it to some municipalities in Washington.
Before he became a billionaire, and one of the richest people in the world, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg turned down $1 million for a music-recommendation software, called Synapse, which he developed as a teenager.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
In 2002, Synapse, similar to apps like Pandora and Spotify, caught the attention of Microsoft, which offered him $1 million — they even offered him a job, too. Zuckerberg told Harvard’s student magazine, The Crimson, he and Synapse co-creator Adam D’Angelo "wanted to go to college, so we said no."
Ultimately, they decided to make Synapse free to use. Just one year later, Zuckerberg would launch what was then called The Facebook.
Blastar, a space-themed video game akin to the famed arcade classic Space Invaders, was designed by now Tesla CEO Elon Musk when he was 12. The game’s mission is to take down an alien fleet before it defeats you, the sole space cadet sent to fight it.
Rashid Umar Abbasi / Reuters
Musk is no doubt perplexed by what space has to offer — he founded Space X, an aerospace manufacturing company, when he was 30.
As a 12-year-old, Musk sold the code for Blastar for $500 to a magazine while he was still living in South Africa. Thanks to the internet, you can play the game here.
- The life of Adam Neumann, the billionaire WeWork founder and CEO who’s about to take his company public
- How to add a device to Find My iPhone to track the location of your iPhone, iPad, or Mac computer
- WeWork is just one of the businesses owned by a $47 billion company that could reveal its IPO paperwork any day now — check out the full list