Carmack, the founder of Id Software, the lead programmer of “Doom,” “Quake” and “Rage,” and a one-time fixture at Apple keynotes, shared some memorable stories about his run-ins with Apple co-founder Steve Jobs on his Facebook page Monday. The post had over 4,000 likes in its first 19 hours.
Carmack, who is now CTO of Oculus VR, begins the post by sharing that his wife had asked him why he would always drop whatever he was doing anytime Steve Jobs called —which included, it turned out, their wedding. Carmack’s answer? He was an Apple fan for his whole life who spent much of his childhood dreaming of owning an Apple II.
Even after hitting it big as creator of Id Software, his first big splurge was a NeXT Computer.
Run-ins with Steve
Carmack remembers going back and forth with Jobs over whether his game “Doom” would launch with a “Developed on NeXT computers” logo. Carmack acknowledges that Jobs was never much of a gamer himself and didn’t take gaming especially seriously, and once Jobs returned to Apple, the pair had some disagreements about graphic interfaces.
“When Steve did make up his mind, he was decisive about it,” Carmack wrote. “Dictates were made, companies were acquired, keynotes were scheduled, and the reality distortion field kicked in, making everything else that was previously considered into obviously terrible ideas.”
A series of keynotes
Carmack appeared several times with Jobs at Apple keynotes, often touting the gaming applications of whichever product Apple was announcing that day.
“I’m here today because Apple finally has their act together with regards to 3D graphics acceleration, both hardware and software,” Carmack famously said at a Macworld keynote in 1999.
“I wound up doing several keynotes with Steve, and it was always a crazy fire drill with not enough time to do things right, and generally requiring heroic effort from many people to make it happen at all,” Carmack said in the post. “I tend to think this was also a calculated part of his method.”
Steve the jerk
In the post this week, Carmack isn’t afraid to point out the negative side of the Jobs experience. He remembers the former CEO “berating the poor stage hands over This Home Depot shit’ that was rolling out the display stand with the new Mac.”
Most notably, Jobs once asked Carmack and his now-wife to postpone their wedding so that Carmack could participate in a keynote. Carmack and his wife drew the line at that after Jobs refused to loan an executive for a day to Carmack’s wife’s startup, and got married as scheduled.
“The Steve Jobs ‘hero / shithead’ rollercoaster was real, and after riding high for a long time, I was now on the down side,” Carmack wrote of a blowup around early iPhone apps. “Someone told me that Steve explicitly instructed them to not give me access to the early iPhone SDK when it finally was ready.”
Seeds of the iPhone
Carmack recalls advocating an Apple-produced phone to Jobs, years before the iPhone arrived on the market.
At QuakeCon in 2008, after the first iPhone launched, Carmack touted the iPhone’s gaming applications and called it more powerful than the Nintendo DS and PSP combined.
The last product Carmack ever worked on for Apple was the “Rage” game engine for iOS, which launched in 2010. But, the two had disagreements and they ended up on the outs —an estrangement that continued until Jobs’ death in 2011.
Later, Carmack regrets the day that he was too busy, near the end, to take a phone call from Jobs, and that he never was able to put together a goodbye email when he heard that Jobs was in failing health.
“I corroborate many of the negative character traits that he was infamous for,” said Carmack. “But elements of the path that led to where I am today were contingent on the dents he left in the universe.”