Doom’s lead programmer recalls working with Steve Jobs | Cult of Mac

Doom’s lead programmer recalls working with Steve Jobs


Doom cover
John Carmack was one of the brains behind some of the biggest PC games of the 1980s and 90s.
Photo: Id Software

Id Software co-founder John Carmack was behind some of the most iconic computer game of the 1980s and 90s. This week, the legendary coder behind the smash hit games Wolfenstein 3D, Doom, and Quake shared some memories of working with Steve Jobs.

Writing on Facebook, Carmack described some of his interactions with Jobs over the years — for better and for worse.

‘Developed on NeXT computers’

“As Id Software grew successful through Commander Keen and Wolfenstein 3D, the first major personal purchase I made wasn’t a car, but rather a NeXT computer,” he wrote, referring to the ill-fated computer Steve Jobs launched during his years outside Apple. “It turned out to be genuinely valuable for our software development, and we moved the entire company onto NeXT hardware.”

When he was ready to launch Doom, Carmack therefore wanted to feature a “Developed on NeXT computers” logo during the startup screens. However, when they requested it, Jobs turned them down.

“Some time after launch, when Doom had begun to make its cultural mark, we heard that Steve had changed his mind and would be happy to have NeXT branding on it, but that ship had sailed. I did think it was cool to trade a few emails with Steve Jobs.”

Carmack suggests that Jobs wasn’t a big fan of computer games, and resented the fact that they played such a big part in the early success of platforms like the Apple II.

Being part of a Jobs keynote event

He also recalls being a part of some of Jobs’ keynote events — and getting a glimpse of the abrasive, perfectionist side of the Apple co-founder and CEO.

“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,” he continues. “I tend to think this was also a calculated part of his method. My first impression of ‘Keynote Steve’ was him berating the poor stage hands over ‘This Home Depot shit’ that was rolling out the display stand with the new Mac, very much not to his satisfaction. His complaints had a valid point, and he improved the quality of the presentation by caring about details, but I wouldn’t have wanted to work for him in that capacity.”

Jobs later tried to convince Carmack to be part of a keynote event on the day of his wedding. When Carmack revealed that this day was off-limits, Jobs didn’t back down, but instead suggested that Carmack changed the day of his wedding.

“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.”

There are some other fun anecdotes in the piece, including Carmack’s experiences working on games for iOS. You can check out his entire post here.