How Mark Zuckerberg Started

How Mark Zuckerberg really started is not how the movie The Social Network showed it.

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Mark Zuckerberg meets a computer

His father, although not an engineer, was an early computer enthusiast. Running a dental office he had a vision that computers would change the way people communicate. But for the time being he used them for taking scanning people’s mouths. At age 10 Mark was bored with school. His father noticed and introduced him to his Altair computer. Together they wrote a program that connected the computer at home with the computer in the office. They called it “ZuckNet.” It alerted doctor Z, as he is known, when a patient arrived. It worked better than having the receptionist yell, “Patient here!”

Mark Zuckerberg starts hacking

Mark quickly learned everything his father knew about computers. He started studying with a tutor. Then he started taking a college class in computer science while still in middle school. He read books. But he really started learning to code when he transferred to a private school where he met a programming whiz kid Adam D’Angelo. Together they started hacking. They made an artificially intelligent music player that learned the user’s music taste. Soon Microsoft found out about it and offered money and a job. Zuckerberg was not interested.

There is a running theme in how Mark Zuckerberg started. He would be offered millions and even billions at least 11 times since then, and every time he walked away. He might have a bigger plan every time.

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Most of the facts in the timeline are based on David Kirkpatrick’s book The Facebook Effect: The Inside Story of the Company That Is Connecting the World.

After watching The Social Network, I wanted to find out how truthful that account of Facebook’s creation was. I turned to the books. Among all Facebook related books The Facebook Effect stands out as the only account where the famously elusive Mark Zuckerberg talked to the author and pulled back the curtain on some of the processes inside.
In the first half of the book you learn the troubled, and sometimes chaotic, history of Facebook’s creation. We learn that Mark Zuckerberg used the time he saved from not attending classes to create the first version of the website. He also used the site to help himself pass an art history class by posting pictures of paintings and asking classmates to post notes next to each. Soon after Facebook was launched, Zuckerberg realized he needed help. His roommate Dustin Moskovitz became the person who woke up every morning fearful that competing websites were going to speard to other colleges – this fear fueled the fast expansion of the early Facebook. Zuckerberg, pragmatic as he was, rewarded Moskovitz with giving him more equity.
The book doesn’t worship Zuckerberg, pointing out his unusual social ways on many occasions. Still, the athor attempts to show what makes Zuckerberg work: how he makes decisions about his company, and what sort of people he surrounds himself with.

All told, the book and the movie are worlds apart. While the movie The Social Network paints a compelling picture of a sociopath who got lucky, the book shows the actions and people that actually lead to Facebook’s rise, such as Zuckerberg crying on the bathroom floor of a restaurant