Elon Musk is a man of many talents. Not only is he head of companies like Tesla and SpaceX, but he also graduated with two bachelor degrees; one in Economics and one in Physics. So we know he’s smart, but can Elon Musk code?
Elon Musk taught himself how to code, and created his very first video game when he was ten years old. He then went on to sell it two years later for $500. How was he able to teach himself coding? Well, after he read through the entire encyclopedia when he was nine and had even more time to play the video games he loved.
Not only is it impressive that a ten-year-old taught himself coding, but this is a ten-year-old who taught himself coding in 1981. Think about that for a minute. He taught himself coding a dozen years before the World Wide Web existed, and two years prior to TCP/IP be adopted. I have to say, it comes as no surprise from a man with an IQ of around 155.
When Elon Musk was 10 years old his father brought him America, from South Africa, and that began his love of the country. Playing video games in the hotel’s arcade started his love of video games.
His family owned the first home video game console, the Magnavox Odyssey. From there, there was a line of consoles such as the Atari, Intellivision, and then he saved up and upgraded to a computer with the Commodore VIC-20, that ran on 5KB of RAM.
The VIC-20 came with a manual that also taught how to Program BASIC. A young Musk absorbed this quickly and was amazed that he could type in commands and the computer would then complete actions.
After he finished the six-month course, in three days, on how to program BASIC, Musk played around and created a game called Blastar. When he was twelve he ended up selling the game to a PC magazine, who printed the code.
While it’s nothing like video games that are made today, you can still play Blastar here. Again, keep in mind that this was an elementary school-aged boy, in the early 1980s who created this game. Honestly, it wasn’t even far off for the time.
Zip2 and Onwards
Musk went on to finish school, and then received two bachelor degrees. He had received a scholarship to attend Stanford but after two days, before even attending any classes, he asked to be deferred so he and his brother could start up a software company, Zip2. He continued to grow his programming and coding skills. He and his brother went on to sell Zip to for $307 million, and then he was on to his next venture.
After Zip2, he created an online bank, which he called X.com. It was with this company that he would move forward and acquire Confinity and turn the merged companies into PayPal. He’s continued to use his knowledge and experience with both Tesla and SpaceX, oftentimes working on the floor level with the designers and engineers of each of the companies. He’s a very hands-on worker and still enjoys seeing with what he can come up with.
Moving Past BASIC
Coding and programming languages have changed a lot over the years. No longer is Musk using BASIC to program at his companies. Nowadays there are several different coding languages to learn, and each of them tends to develop over time.
Currently, Tesla uses Python as its main programming and coding language, though some of Musk’s Tweets have left people wondering if they’re going to switch to C/C++, which has brought out some strong reactions from the programming community. I’m sure the day will come where he just ends up creating his own programming language.
Elon Musk not only uses his talent for advancing his companies, but he’s also big into helping young people learn, by supporting organizations such as hackclub.com. You don’t need a degree to work for him at his companies, you just need to have the drive and the capabilities. And a love of video games.