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John Carmack

Steve Jobs

My wife once asked me “Why do you drop what you are doing when Steve Jobs asks you to do something? You don’t do that for anyone else.”

It is worth thinking about.

As a teenage Apple computer fan, Jobs and Wozniak were revered figures for me, and wanting an Apple 2 was a defining characteristic of several years of my childhood. Later on, seeing NeXT at a computer show just as I was selling my first commercial software felt like a vision into the future. (But $10k+, yikes!)

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. It turned out to be genuinely valuable for our software development, and we moved the entire company onto NeXT hardware.

We loved our NeXTs, and we wanted to launch Doom with an explicit “Developed on NeXT computers” logo during the startup process, but when we asked, the request was denied.

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.

Several things over the years made me conclude that, at his core, Steve didn’t think very highly of games, and always wished they weren’t as important to his platforms as they turned out to be. I never took it personally.

When NeXT managed to sort of reverse-acquire Apple and Steve was back in charge, I was excited by the possibilities of a resurgent Apple with the virtues of NeXT in a mainstream platform.

I was brought in to talk about the needs of games in general, but I made it my mission to get Apple to adopt OpenGL as their 3D graphics API. I had a lot of arguments with Steve.

Part of his method, at least with me, was to deride contemporary options and dare me to tell him differently. They might be pragmatic, but couldn’t actually be good. “I have Pixar. We will make something [an API] that is actually good.”

It was often frustrating, because 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.

But when I knew what I was talking about, I would stand my ground against anyone.

When Steve did make up his mind, he was decisive about it. 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.

I consider this one of the biggest indirect impacts on the industry that I have had. OpenGL never seriously threatened D3D on PC, but it was critical at Apple, and that meant that it remained enough of a going concern to be the clear choice when mobile devices started getting GPUs. While long in the tooth now, it was so much better than what we would have gotten if half a dozen SoC vendors rolled their own API back at the dawn of the mobile age.

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. 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.

One time, my wife, then fiancé, 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.

When I was preparing an early technology demo of Doom 3 for a keynote in Japan, I was having a hard time dealing with some of the managers involved that were insisting that I change the demo because “Steve doesn’t like blood.” I knew that Doom 3 wasn’t to his taste, but that wasn’t the point of doing the demo.

I brought it to Steve, with all the relevant people on the thread. He replied to everyone with:

“I trust you John, do whatever you think is great.”

That goes a long way, and nobody said a thing after that.

When my wife and I later started building games for feature phones (DoomRPG! Orcs&Elves!), I advocated repeatedly to Steve that an Apple phone could be really great. Every time there was a rumor that Apple might be working on a phone, I would refine the pitch to him. Once he called me at home on a Sunday (How did he even get my number?) to ask a question, and I enthused at length about the possibilities.

I never got brought into the fold, but I was excited when the iPhone actually did see the light of day. A giant (for the time) true color display with a GPU! We could do some amazing things with this!

Steve first talked about application development for iPhone at the some keynote I was demonstrating the new ID Tech 5 rendering engine on Mac, so I was in the front row. When he started going on about “Web Apps”, I was (reasonably quietly) going “Booo!!!”.

After the public cleared out and the rest of us were gathered in front of the stage, I started urgently going on about how web apps are terrible, and wouldn’t show the true potential of the device. We could do so much more with real native access!

Steve responded with a line he had used before: “Bad apps could bring down cell phone towers.” I hated that line. He could have just said “We aren’t ready”, and that would have been fine.

I was making some guesses, but I argued that the iPhone hardware and OS provided sufficient protection for native apps. I pointed at a nearby engineer and said “Don’t you have an MMU and process isolation on the iPhone now?” He had a wide eyed look of don’t-bring-me-into-this, but I eventually got a “yes” out of him.

I said that OS-X was surely being used for things that were more security critical than a phone, and if Apple couldn’t provide enough security there, they had bigger problems. He came back with a snide “You’re a smart guy John, why don’t you write a new OS?” At the time, my thought was, “Fuck you, Steve.”.

People were backing away from us. If Steve was mad, Apple employees didn’t want him to associate the sight of them with the experience. Afterwards, one of the execs assured me that “Steve appreciates vigorous conversation”.

Still deeply disappointed about it, I made some comments that got picked up by the press. Steve didn’t appreciate that.

The Steve Jobs “hero / shithead” rollercoaster was real, and after riding high for a long time, I was now on the down side. Someone told me that Steve explicitly instructed them to not give me access to the early iPhone SDK when it finally was ready.

I wound up writing several successful iPhone apps on the side (all of which are now gone due to dropping 32 bit support, which saddens me), and I had many strong allies inside Apple, but I was on the outs with Steve.

The last iOS product I worked on was Rage for iOS, which I thought set a new bar for visual richness on mobile, and also supported some brand new features like TV out. I heard that it was well received inside Apple.

I was debriefing the team after the launch when I got a call. I was busy, so I declined it. A few minutes later someone came in and said that Steve was going to call me. Oops.

Everyone had a chuckle about me “hanging up on Steve Jobs”, but that turned out to be my last interaction with him.

As the public story of his failing health progressed, I started several emails to try to say something meaningful and positive to part on, but I never got through them, and I regret it.

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.

I showed up for him.

> 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.

When I start getting a certain vibe from some people, I start countering requests with similar but slightly smaller requests. Amazing how so many people can demand another's time and resources but refuse to return anything themselves.

Often even making that straight-faced, respectful, comparable request will end a relationship. It's sad but it must be done.

>Often even making that straight-faced, respectful, comparable request will end a relationship. It's sad but it must be done.

This is the best way to ferret out narcissists. You cut ties, but they don't necessarily hate you. They just forget you exist. At least until they need something from you again.

I once had a co-worker who was more senior than me on our project (the business lead (I was software lead)) tell me that I was needed in a "very important meeting" during lunch the next day.

Unfortunately, I had plans to meet with a friend for lunch - and that friend was moving away the following afternoon. When I told my coworker that I was not going to attend the meeting during that time under any circumstances he lost his shit ...and I calmly and sternly told him he can take it up with my boss.

I walked away from that conversation thinking "well shit, it was fun while it lasted", Surprisingly my co-worker cooled down, dealt with the meeting situation, and never said a word to my boss. To boot, he _never_ lost his shit like that with me again and we've had a pretty good friendship ever since.

I don't find it sad to end a bad relationship. If someone only intends to "use" me and has nothing to offer, that isn't much of a loss.

It's a bit sad to face the the reality than to blissfully believe the person is a friend.


HN loves IP except when it doesn't.

I do think an ethical debate exists. To me the question is whether John published this purely to get his word out, or if he did it as an agent of Facebook to increase traffic and thereby ad revenue to Facebook. I believe it is the former, in which case I haven’t done anything wrong. But that could just be my moral compass baising towards anything I do.

That's not how copyright works. Unless you have his permission, you really don't have any right to repost his blog post in it's entirety. If you were engaging it criticism or some other kind of fair use, that would be fine, but you can't just assume that the copyright owner is ok with how you're using their copyright unless you asked them or they gave everyone permission.

We're having some copyright discussion about reposting John Carmack's "blog" post on HACKER News.

Look, for all you that care that Mr. Carmack might mind; send him a link to the post and if he wants to DMCA it, or ask Dang or Scott to take it down, he can.

I'm personally thankful I don't have to click a link to a tracking-ridden, third-party site that may or may not have the content originally linked two weeks later.

> site that may or may not have the content originally linked two weeks later.

I have a handful of web personal projects which I built and maintain just for fun (no ads on them), pretty light on the incoming traffic, to put it nicely, but a couple of days ago one of them received a spike in traffic originating from Facebook. But looking at the referral got me into a black hole, i.e. the infamous l.php FB page which doesn’t tell me anything about which page linked to my website, in other words totally opposed to the original idea behind the www.

Like I said, I maintain those projects just for fun and I was really looking forward to having a conversation about said project that got linked to with whomever decided to follow said link, but because you can’t peak at all behind FB’s wall that meant that that idea was dead from the very start.

The "Hacker" in HN is not "someone who breaks the law with a computer" but "someone who does clever things."

I'm not the copyright holder, I don't really care in the grand scheme of things. I'm just posting factual information about copyright. If you want to dispute that information, that's fine.

I'm noticing this more and more just lately.

Besides, knowing how to copy and paste doesn't really make one a _hacker_ no matter which way you slice it.

This doesn’t really change anything. How is archive.org reposting it different from ycombinator.com doing the same?

Because....everything I write on Facebook belongs to Facebook?

It belongs to Carmack, it's like copying the entire text of a blog post from someone else's blog and then hosting it on your own blog.

Like when Google puts it in the cache, or when archive.org crawls it, or when I add it to my Pocket reading list?

You can request that the internet archive stop hosting your copyrighted materials...


Arguing that copyright laws don't exist because you can find examples of people ignoring them doesn't change the fact that they exist.

As Stallman says, there is no such thing as „intellectual property”, at least not in law. There is copyright, patents, trademarks, etc., but „intellectual property” is an abstract invention.

> As Stallman says, there is no such thing as „intellectual property”, at least not in law. There is copyright, patents, trademarks, etc., but „intellectual property” is an abstract invention.

Copyrights, patents, trademarks, etc. are also abstract inventions. So are most other rights and privileges protected by law.

"Intellectual property" is just an umbrella term that rightly recognizes the similarities between copyright/patent/trademark. There may be no legal definition for the term, but nobody's confused about what it means.

> rightly recognizes the similarities between copyright/patent/trademark.

Can you elaborate on those similarities? Stallman, in his essay[1], states some important differences. He makes a coherent argument. So what similarities here are "rightly" recognised? I'm not saying you're wrong, but "nobody's confused" is not really a complete counter-argument.

[1] https://www.gnu.org/philosophy/not-ipr.en.html , viz,

"These laws originated separately, evolved differently, cover different activities, have different rules, and raise different public policy issues.

For instance, copyright law was designed to promote authorship and art, and covers the details of expression of a work. Patent law was intended to promote the publication of useful ideas, at the price of giving the one who publishes an idea a temporary monopoly over it—a price that may be worth paying in some fields and not in others."

I think the term "IP" is meant to highlight the one big similarity they share. We recognize that this thing, which is more of an idea than an object, belongs to an entity (person/company/government/whatever), and that entity has control over some of the finer details of how that thing is used. That's even pretty readily apparent in the term itself: "intellectual property", property that is more of a thought than a thing. Maybe it's a bit euphemistic, and to someone with Stallman's beliefs, the propagation of the term probably seems more than a bit dystopian, but it's still a useful umbrella.


> How many cases has SCOTUS taken over the last decade dealing with hard problems about deciding who owns a physical object?

I don't see the validity of this argument. Look at the number of freedom of religion lawsuits which have come to the US Supreme Court. That doesn't mean that people don't have a reasonable and practical understanding of the topic for most cases.

Going to your question, one sprang quickly to mind, and I'm not even a lawyer. Kelo v. City of New London, concerning the use of eminent domain. The holding was "The governmental taking of property from one private owner to give to another in furtherance of economic development constitutes a permissible "public use" under the Fifth Amendment."

Here are some of the physical property cases from the last 10 years (based on the list at Wikipedia; many of which are not described, so there are likely more).

There's Arkansas Game & Fish Commission v. United States, "holding that it was possible for government-induced, temporary flooding to constitute a "taking" of property".

There's Marvin Brandt Revocable Trust v. United States which "held that a railroad right-of-way granted under the General Railroad Right-of-Way Act of 1875 is an easement. Therefore, when a railroad abandons such a right-of-way, the easement disappears, and the land owner regains unburdened use of the land."

In Horne v. United States Department of Agriculture, No. 14-275, "The Fifth Amendment requires that the Government pay just compensation when it takes personal property, just as when it takes real property."

In Stop the Beach Renourishment v. Florida Department of Environmental Protection the Supreme Court addressed a question concerning "littoral property owners' rights to future accretions and to contact the water".

Does that mean that no one understands the laws regarding ownership and control of physical objects?


I disagree with some of your synopses.

I think what you say is a "case on strategic grain reserve regulation" is Horn v. USDA. It concerns raisins, not grain. It concerns the ability of the Raisin Administrative Committee to take physical property in order to enforce regulations.

Writing for the majority, Roberts wrote (quoting from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horne_v._Department_of_Agricul... ):

> Chief Justice Roberts began his analysis by tracing the history of personal property from the protection of farmers’ corn in the 1215 Magna Carta,[15] to the 1641 Massachusetts Body of Liberties,[16] to a 1778 editorial by John Jay.[17] Chief Justice Roberts concluded that personal property has not been given any less protection than real property for at least 800 years and that the physical appropriation of property gives rise to a per se taking.

Previously, "the Ninth Circuit found that there had been no taking because the takings clause protects personal property, like raisins, less than real property."

Thus, while the case was a consequence of a regulatory decision, the holding establishes that personal property and real property have equal protections.

In your [1] you objected that you were only talking about "physical personal property", and not real estate or other forms of property. However, as you can see in the above quote, the taking of the raisins was the taking of personal property.

Thus, even if you take all the other cases away, there's still at least one case which fits your requirement.

Concerning your synopsis of Stop the Beach Renourishment v. Florida Department of Environmental Protection, I do not see how you can summarize it as a case on environmental regulation.

The owners of beachfront property wanted to continue as owners of beachfront property and argued that the construction of a new public beach between their land and the water was the taking of part of their property right. The FL Supreme Court said there was no perpetual right for beachfront property to touch the water, and the Supreme Court affirmed.

The owners also said that they had a "right to receive accretions to their property", that would be taken by the creation of the beach. Again, that Supreme Court found otherwise.

There is no mention of any environmental regulation in the 08–1151 brief.

In your [1] you assert that I somehow knew you were only talking about "physical personal property". Your leadup to it was: "actual property law ... who owns a physical object".

Black's Law, second edition, defines "property" as:

> Rightful dominion over external objects; ownership; the unrestricted and exclusive right to a thing; the right to dispose of the substance of a thing in every legal way, to possess it, to use it and to exclude every one else from interfering with it.

and further distinguishes between absolute property, common property, literary property, personal property, private property, real property, and more. Private property, for example, is of a tangible nature, and includes houses and lands.

So I think you can forgive me for reading your description of "property" and "physical object" as to include private property such as real estate.

I still do not agree with the validity of your argument. Given the number of freedom of religion laws which have come before the Supreme Court in the last 10 years, does that mean that no one has a reasonably practical understanding of the freedom of religion?


Does it matter?

I still think your premise - that looking at Supreme Court cases to establish what is well known - is bogus. You have not responded to my counter-example based on the freedom of religion.

The rest of what I wrote is to get you to say what it is you mean, since it certainly wasn't clear from your original text that you were only referring to personal property rights, and specifically excluding real estate. Narrow down the topic enough and of course there won't be any Supreme Court cases, so I that's surely not what you mean to do.

You have further misrepresented court cases, seemingly to make it appear as if the findings are not all, or mostly, related to property law.

In addition, you somehow believe that my citations from Wikipedia (or one link away) are equivalent to a Lexis-Nexis search. I presume that is satire.

I see no reason to find people who group all of my examples under "property law" since I have no problems with assuming that some of them are mistaken. But it seems that you think that none of them fall under "property law."

For Horne v. USDA I found http://www.scotusblog.com/2015/04/argument-preview-regulatio... which says "The Hornes have drawn the support of the Federal Circuit Bar Association and property law scholars, worried over the impact on “takings” law generally of treating personal property differently from real property;". Therefore, that's one citation which places Horne v. USDA in the category of "property law."

FWIW, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Property_law lists "easements" as part of property law, so Marvin Brandt Revocable Trust v. United States deals with property law.

If you don't like Wikipedia, http://www.scotusblog.com/2014/03/opinion-analysis-victory-a... refers to that case saying:

> The dispute between the Roberts opinion and Justice Sotomayor’s dissent focused mainly on the meaning of a 1942 decision by the Court, and on whether railroad right-of-way ownership disputes should be treated by their own set of property laws rather than general property law principles.

and http://www.scotusblog.com/2014/01/argument-recap-oh-give-me-...

> He had Scalia on his side almost all the way (at least after the Justice’s initial taunt). But he and government lawyer Yang had to cope, repeatedly, with Justice Breyer’s sometimes awkward efforts to remember the phrases he had learned as a student of property law.

If you don't like scotusblog site, the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, as part of the progression of this case, also quotes refers to "property law" in https://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/cert/12-1173 :

> On the other hand, the Cato Institute argues on behalf of the Trust that arbitrary changes in the principles of property law ultimately undermine landowners’ right to be secure in their property. ...

> The Northwest Legal Foundation (“NLF”) argues on behalf of the Trust that, under the common principles of property law, property is never impliedly conveyed; it is only expressly conveyed. The NLF argues that, because the Trust’s land patent does not contain an expressly reserved reversionary interest, the United States retaining a reversionary interest in the right-of-way is tantamount to a taking by the government. As such, the NLF argues that, without the procedural safeguards of government takings under a doctrine like eminent domain, allowing the United States to retain a reversionary interest, here, undermines the principles of property law and greatly expands the United States’ takings powers.

Thus, two of my examples do fall under the 'umbrella term 'property law'".

I fail to understand your ridicule.

You don't need an encyclopedic knowledge of the full breadth of IP law to know what someone means when they say "IP law".

Nobody is confused about what is being referred to when someone says "IP", except people like Stallman (and maybe you) who are trying to score gotchas by pretending you can't talk about complex things in simplified terms.

Thanks I guess my new hosts file is working after all

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