Early life and education
Dell was born in 1965 in Houston, to a Jewish family whose surname reflects the translation into English of the original German Tal ("valley" or "dale [q.v.]"; modern common-noun spelling Tal) upon the family's immigration to the United States. The son of Lorraine Charlotte (née Langfan), a stockbroker, and Alexander Dell, an orthodontist, Michael Dell attended Herod Elementary School in Houston. In a bid to enter business early, he applied to take a high school equivalency exam at age eight. In his early teens, he invested his earnings from part-time jobs in stocks and precious metals.
Dell purchased his first calculator at age seven and encountered an early teletype terminal in junior high. At age 15, after playing with computers at Radio Shack, he got his first computer, an Apple II, which he promptly disassembled to see how it worked. He got a job as a dishwasher at age 12 and was quickly promoted to maitre d'. Dell attended Memorial High School in Houston, selling subscriptions to the Houston Post in the summer. Dell learned to target specific populations for newspaper subscriptions rather than just making cold calls, and earned $18,000 that summer. He hired several employees, and after earning a gross profit of nearly $200,000 in his first year of business, Dell dropped out of the University of Texas at age 19.