John Carmack is the legendary [former] id Software programmer that was behind such PC gaming bedrocks like Wolfenstein 3D, Doom and Quake. But during his ascent to PC gaming legend status, Carmack had more than a few run-ins with former Apple CEO Steve Jobs.
Carmack revealed in a Facebook post this week that he grew up admiring the two Steves: Jobs and Wozniak. Following early success at id Software, Carmack bought his first NeXT computer (a company that Jobs helmed during this time away from Apple) and would later move the entire company over to the machines.
However, his first real face-to-face meetings with Jobs came when trying to get Apple to integrate OpenGL support into its 3D graphics API. It was at this time that Carmack learned about how quirky and sometimes downright frustrating it was to work with Jobs.
“Part of his method, at least with me, was to deride contemporary options and dare me to tell him differently,” said Carmack. “They might be pragmatic, but couldn’t actually be good. ‘I have Pixar. We will make something [an API] that is actually good'”.
Apparently, Jobs was very good at downplaying or mercilessly deriding [seemingly] good ideas just for the pleasure of it. “He could talk, with complete confidence, about things he was just plain wrong about, like the price of memory for video cards and the amount of system bandwidth exploitable by the AltiVec extensions,” Carmack adds. “But when I knew what I was talking about, I would stand my ground against anyone.”
Jobs also had a penchant for calling up Carmack, asking him to drop everything to give his full attention at a moment’s notice. In one particular incident, Carmack’s [then] fiancé wasn’t buying what Jobs was trying to sell, and for good reason:
One time, my wife, then fiancée, and I were meeting with Steve at Apple, and he wanted me to do a keynote that happened to be scheduled on the same day as our wedding. With a big smile and full of charm, he suggested that we postpone it. We declined, but he kept pressing. Eventually my wife countered with a suggestion that if he really wanted “her” John so much, he should loan John Lassiter to her media company for a day of consulting. Steve went from full charm to ice cold really damn quick. I didn’t do that keynote.
We won’t give away every little anecdote that Carmack revealed in his post, but we will state that it was indeed, at least for John Carmack, a rollercoaster ride to be within Steve Jobs’ orbit at any given time.
“The Steve Jobs “hero / sh!thead” rollercoaster was real,” Carmack explains. “I corroborate many of the negative character traits that he was infamous for, but elements of the path that led to where I am today were contingent on the dents he left in the universe.”