A Commodore PET 2001, the same model series Iwata purchased in 1978 and subsequently dismantled
Satoru Iwata was born on December 6, 1959, and raised in Sapporo, Japan, where his father served as a prefectural official. Throughout middle and high school, Iwata displayed leadership skills through service as class president, student council president, and club president at various times. His first experience with computers was in middle school with a demo computer that used telephone lines. Iwata would frequent the Sapporo subway and play a simple numeric game, called Game 31, until he mastered it. With money saved up from a dish-washing job and some additional allowance from his father, Iwata purchased an HP-65, the first programmable calculator, in 1974. After entering Hokkaido Sapporo South High School in April 1975, he began developing his own games during his junior year. The several simple number games Iwata produced, such as Volleyball and Missile Attack, made use of an electronic calculator he shared with his schoolmates.
Iwata obtained his first computer, a Commodore PET, in 1978. He dismantled and studied the machine out of his desire to understand it. The computer coincidentally had a central processing unit (MOS 6502) similar to the one used by Nintendo for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), a gaming console for which he would later develop games. Following high school, Iwata was admitted to the Tokyo Institute of Technology in April 1978, where he majored in computer science. Tomohiko Uematsu, an engineering professor, noted Iwata's proficiency with software programming and remarked that Iwata could write programs faster and more accurately than any of his other students.
While attending the school, he was one of several unpaid interns at Commodore Japan, assisting the subsidiary's head engineer—Yash Terakura—with technical and software-development tasks. One of his main reasons for taking the job was to spend more time around computers and learn of details not openly available to the public. Terakura would later serve as a mentor to Iwata, teaching him about hardware engineering to supplement Iwata's already extensive software knowledge. Iwata and several of his friends rented an apartment in Akihabara and soon formed a club where they would create and code games. Classmates living in nearby apartments referred to Iwata's room as "Game Center Iwata".[nb 1] He would frequently show off his games to the Seibu department store's computer department, and by 1980 a group of employees there invited him to join their company, HAL Laboratory, Inc.