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Mark Zuckerberg's dad, Edward: a dentist and social media evangelist

March 30, 2011 |  8:26 pm

  Edward Zuckerberg, father of Mark

Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg got his start in programming using an Atari 800 that his father, Edward, gave him as a child.

And while back then neither father nor son could have predicted Facebook or billion-dollar success, a vision of a tech-friendly future was in place, Edward Zuckerberg told Times reporter Nathaniel Popper recently.

Popper profiled the elder Zuckerberg, a dentist in Dobbs Ferry, N.Y., in a Column One story on Wednesday. From Popper's report:

"A key word here is 'vision,' " the dentist said with a terse bravado that could have been lifted from Aaron Sorkin's screenplay. "We're all exposed to a lot of things, but how many can see where things are heading?"

And that vision, from father to son, began when Edward Zuckerberg was a teenager taking apart stereos "just to see how they worked." Later, a friend in dental school got him into computers.

As a dentist, Zuckerberg's first computer was a "massive" IBM unit selling for $10,000 that was used almost exclusively to print invoices.

But that wasn't the point, he told Popper:

"It wasn't about the math; it was about the vision," Zuckerberg said.

Another of his early computers came with a programming tutorial disk. Zuckerberg taught young Mark to write code. "He was bored with his schoolwork," the elder Zuckerberg explained. He later let the boy rig up a primitive version of instant messaging that enabled people in different parts of the dental office and the house to communicate via computer. The family dubbed it ZuckNet.

"It was buggy and it crashed, but it worked for about a year until we got networked," Edward said.

And today, Zuckerberg is an advocate for the use of social media, following somewhat in the footsteps of his son, who helms the world's most popular social networking site.

In February he spoke to a crowded room of dental students at Columbia University about "Technology Integration in the Dental Office."

Tom Connolly, a Columbia faculty member, attended in hopes of improving his own dental practice. Zuckerberg's lecture on digitizing his office, delivering appointment reminders by email and marketing with Facebook sent Connolly away buzzing with ideas.

"The fact that I've always looked toward being cutting edge, and the fact that he was seven to 10 years ahead of me, I was really impressed with that," Connolly said.

To read Popper's full profile on the self-identified "Father of Facebook," check out the Times article Meet Edward Zuckerberg, tech-savvy dentist (and Mark's father).


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Photo: Edward Zuckerberg, father of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, poses in his dental practice on Feb. 03, 2011 in Dobbs Ferry, N.Y. Credit: Michael Nagle/For The Times