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"I did think it was cool to trade a few emails with Steve Jobs."

Funny he should write that. Many, many years ago I wrote an email to John Carmack asking something about his .plan postings which must have seemed fairly mundane looking back on it now. He was nice enough to write me back. And I thought that was pretty cool too.

I guess it just goes to show that even the people you respect or admire have people they respect and admire themselves.

Years ago, my friends and I got drunk while celebrating my 20th birthday

As a joke, I emailed Gabe Newell and asked if he'd wish me a happy birthday

Much to my surprise, he actually replied! https://i.imgur.com/n0BvCPS.png

I can only imagine the amount of garbage he gets in his inbox every day. So to get that email back (on a Sunday for him, as well) was pretty heart warming

I once emailed Woz about some trivial question about the old Apple machines. He emailed me right back with an apology about how he was too busy to answer all these kinds of emails and then in the next sentence, answered my question anyway.

Different story. I once asked a question to the author of 7-Zip to include it in a software and received in return a link to the FAQ!

And even when Woz isn't responsive himself, it seems he makes sure his emails get answered. I emailed him once a few years ago -- I forget about what -- and his wife replied with a kind, detailed note.

When I was a kid, I was interested in game development & I found the e-mail address for someone at Infogrames that developed the Alone in the Dark game and said I was a young and learning game development and asked a bunch of questions. Surprisingly the contact whose e-mail address I found corresponded with me a few times about questions I had about developing video games. I somehow doubt that kind of thing would happen today but I'd probably be proven wrong. I then wrote it up as a Q&A and put it on my Geocities website :-)

I love stories like this. A few months ago, my daughter was born and was named after the main character in a Philip Pullman series. He tweeted a welcome message to her! https://twitter.com/PhilipPullman/status/946678534776516608 One of the weirdest, most amazing internet moments for me.

My wife (then girlfriend) got John Carmack to email me for my birthday in college.

That's a very considerate thing to do. Cute!

They’re busy people and in many cases very influential (and probably also wealthy), but famous people are still people at the end of the day. As a fan of few people in this world, when I do get the chance to meet them, I try to approach them as a human first and a famous person second. Another way to look at that is: great every stranger you’d like to make a connection with with the same respect you’d treat your heroes. If you go up to them and start freaking out because you’re actually talking to them...how do you think that feels for them?

I’ve always thought that it wouldn’t be that fulfilling to be famous, because you’d lose the opportunity to do things like go out to a normal restaurant with your family and have dinner without people acting weird around you constantly. Paparazzi are one thing, fans and stalkers another.

TL;DR don’t be the person who makes being famous suck, and you’ll probably get a lot more out of having an interesting conversation with someone you look up to vs just getting an autograph.

Reminds me a bit of the outer world experience of walking around GDC, where you'd see the big names just wandering around. Talking with lots of big names like Dustin Browder, Tim Schafer and Noah Falstein. Always a delight talking and hearing experiences of these people. Perhaps one day I'll meet Carmack.

I would imagine that with all the work that their jobs demand, they would be happy to do something not related to work.

For a little bit of a different type of story I wrote Leo Laporte back when I was a teenager and he was on Call For Help. I asked him a very specific question about getting video card drivers to work with a specific video encoder (which, looking back, is a terrible question to ask someone who is doing a TV show and can only give back sound bite answers).

To my surprise he actually read my question and answered it on tv! It was so freaking cool! But, my inner teenager kicked in when I realized his answer was something I already tried. I sent him an really awful email in response. I called him terrible names. I was a complete shit.

I felt so bad about my actions _for years_ that I eventually emailed him a, what I thought was, a heartfelt apology for being such a shit. I got an email back a few days later from his wife telling me she shared it with him and to not worry about it.

I still feel bad about writing it...

Funny, I felt very similar when this happened :) https://twitter.com/ID_AA_Carmack/status/993142700374462464

Wow that’s this haha!

On this very forum I had Alan Kay politely tell me I was a fool, and I thought it was great. I bragged to my developer friends, who also agreed that it was great. And that I was, indeed, a fool.

I once gave Marvin Minsky a headache by showing a video tape of bright blinking PostScript graphics! I apologized, and we had a nice conversation about how eye tracking interfaces tend to do the same thing.

What did you write that made him say that?

(I've written some pretty dumb things to him and he never called me a fooled. He was nice enough to try to re-explain things to me. I finally had to give up because I felt I was wasting his time.)

No he was polite. I suppose I should restate, he didn't call me a fool straight out but let me know it was foolish to comment on things I had no firsthand knowledge of. I think it was an article regarding Steve's visit at Xerox PARC.

But in the opening post, John Carmack said that is what Steve would do: "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."

Alan is very smart and was a prodigy, but I think he put up with Steve Jobs' eccentricity to a larger extent than our eccentricity because he could influence people and got a few things right. (Although Alan has been said to call out CEOs for incompetence.) Murray Rothbard (economist) said all the billionaires he ever met were crazy. Probably because their colleagues and employees would put up with a lot of stuff they would never let anyone else get away with.

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=15575389 - that didn't seem like 6 months ago.

I think this is a case where you didn't take the trouble to find out the facts and are instead projecting your beliefs on a situation at which you weren't present. I'm calling you on because there is much too much of this kind of commentary in most forums.

I bet dang saw that and wanted to remind him about the HN guidelines and then realized that the author of the comment was freakin Alan Kay and just said never mind.

He was giving a YC startup talk and asked for emails in his presentation. I did and he answered. He seems to genuinely enjoy talking to anyone that cares. He's answered pretty much all the ridiculous things I've asked him on HN.

To add one rung above that, I remember a quote from Jobs's biography to the extent of "I would trade all of my technology for an afternoon with Socrates."

For anyone wondering how a Steve-Socrates dialog might be like, I found this analogous bit of history:


Diogenes was in Corinth when Alexander the Great sent word through a messenger asking Diogenes to come see him in Macedonia.

Diogenes told the Alexander’s messenger, “Go tell your emperor that Corinth is as far from Macedonia as Macedonia is from Corinth. So if your emperor wants to see me, he can come and find me here.”

Irrefutable logic and infinite self-assurance. The last bit can only come from someone who really does not need anything from anyone however high and mighty.

Alexander surely was not used to being turned down. But I suppose being a warrior, he admired courage. So he went to Corinth to meet Diogenes. Diogenes was sitting in his tub and enjoying the morning sun when Alexander showed up on his high horse with a whole bunch of soldiers.

After a brief introduction, Alexander proudly offered to give Diogenes anything that he needed. “Is there anything I can do for you, Sir?” asked Alexander. Diogenes replied, “Yes, you could. You are blocking the sun. Please stand aside.”



This story was one of the first i heard back in high school during my first courses of philosophy. I still admire the courage and free-thinking spirit of those Greek intellectuals. Imagine some of our current "intellectuals" been called by the White House today. They will be in the hurry to meet the "President". During the visit they will make sure they get some selfies with M. President in order to show it as a life-achievements... Vanity is a common pattern among our modern days intelligentsia

I'm pretty sure this pattern was also common in Ancient Greece. Diogenes was exceptional.

Such a contrast with the people who used to live there before:


I sent an email to Jonathan Blow about Jai once, and I was surprised that he sent me a thorough reply.

Russ Cox never got back to me about having GUI apps take over the terminal window in Plan 9 from userspace, although my idea was fundamentally trash so I don't blame him

I emailed Jon about unblocking me on Twitter once and he did. Made me appreciate him as a person a lot more.

Speaking his .plan files. One heck of a trip down memory lane: https://github.com/ESWAT/john-carmack-plan-archive/

That's one of the things that I do think is neat about Twitter; there is actually a pretty reasonable chance someone whose book I admired, or whatever, will read and respond to my message.

Back in uni I emailed Andrew Tanenbaum asking some silly question about the Amoeba operating system.

This was around 97, and the Internet was still new to me. There was access in one lab 1 hour once a week or something like that, so the fact that he replied with some pointers to few ps files about the OS was really amazing.

Back in the day (~1989) when Minix was hot stuff I asked a friend who went to VU a question about Minix to pass on to Tanenbaum, next thing I knew I was invited to his flat next to the Amsterdamse Bos for tea and cookies. That was a very interesting afternoon.

There's always the risk that it'll turn out that you don't like your heroes when you meet them in person.

Tanenbaum certainly didn't disappoint.

I did this too! A question about how they were testing Quake. John responded with some detail about how to set up a simple proxy server. Very helpful and relevant to what I was working on at the time; thanks John!

Can't recall who, but I remember a famous actress saying she got star truck meeting another not far above famous actor. Must be weird to go from star to fan.

Was it Jennifer Lawrence meeting Jack Nicholson?

I see people I admire the most everyday at work. I never dared say hi to them!

You don't say 'Hi' to your co-workers?

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