Banatao is known for his rags to riches story. During his childhood, he walked barefoot on a dirt road just to reach Malabbac Elementary School. He pursued his secondary education at the Jesuit-run Ateneo de Tuguegarao. After high school, he pursued hisBachelor of Science in Electric Engineering from the Mapúa Institute of Technology and graduated cum laude.
After college, he turned down several job offers, including one from Meralco. He joined Philippine Airlines as a trainee pilot, and was later pirated by Boeing. At Boeing, he worked as a design engineer for the company’s new commercial airliner and cargo transport aircraft, Boeing 747, in the United States. With the opportunity to stay in the United States, he then took his Master of Science in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at Stanford University and finished in 1972. Banatao also joined the Homebrew Computer Club, where he met Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak.
After finishing his master’s degree, Banatao worked with different technology companies such as the National Semiconductor,Intersil, and Commodore International where he designed the first single chip, 16-bit microprocessor-based calculator. In 1981, he developed the first 10-Mbit Ethernet CMOS with silicon coupler data-link control and transreceiver chip while working in Seeq Technology. He was also credited for the firstsystem logic chip set for IBM‘s PC-XT and the PC-AT; the local bus concept and the first Windows Graphics accelerator chip for personal computers.