John Carmack

John Carmack is a computer programmer, video game designer, and virtual reality (VR) engineer. He is best known for his contributions to several influential first-person shooter (FPS) games such as Wolfenstein 3D, Doom, and Quake.

Carmack is also the founder of id Software before he joined Oculus Rift to become its CTO. In more recent times, he moved into the advancement of artificial general intelligence (AGI) and founded the start-up Keen Technologies. 

Let’s expand on this history below.

Early career

Carmack’s early career was characterized by a passion for programming and a desire to create innovative video games. This passion started at a young age when Carmack developed his skills on a variety of platforms, including the Apple II, Commodore 64, and IBM PC.

In 1991, Carmack co-founded id Software with co-workers from his former employer Softdisk. Together, they created a number of successful games such as Commander Keen. However, Carmack’s breakthrough came in 1992 with the release of Wolfenstein 3D, a revolutionary FPS that popularized the genre and established id Software as a major player in the industry

Over the next few years, Carmack developed several pioneering techniques such as adaptive tile refresh (Commander Keen), ray casting (Wolfenstein 3D), surface caching (Quake), and binary space partitioning (Doom). 

Many of Carmack’s engines have been subsequently used in popular modern titles such as Medal of Honor, Call of Duty, and Half-Life.

Oculus Rift

Carmack joined Oculus Rift in 2013 as its chief technology officer. Though a full-time position, he noted at the time that he would continue to provide leadership for games development at id Software. However, a few months later, Carmack did resign from id Software after parent company ZeniMax Media refused to support Oculus Rift.

When Oculus was acquired in 2014 for $2 billion, Carmack became an employee of Facebook (now Meta) where he is best known for building the phone-powered virtual reality headset known as Gear VR

Carmack stepped down in 2019 to move into a new CTO consultant position. While he would continue to spend some time on virtual reality projects, much more would be devoted to his pursuit of artificial general intelligence (AGI).

Keen Technologies

Carmack announced on Twitter in August 2022 that he had raised $20 million for a new AGI company known as Keen Technologies. The round was led by former GitHub CEO Nat Friedman and Cue founder Daniel Gross. Others such as Sequoia, Capital Factory, Jim Keller, Patrick Collison, and Tobi Lutke were also involved.

In the post, he explained that the move was “explicitly a focusing effort for me. I could write a $20M check myself, but knowing that other people’s money is on the line engenders a great sense of discipline and determination.” Carmack also explained that he would nevertheless devote around 20% of his time to Meta.

Key takeaways:

  • John Carmack is a computer programmer, video game designer, and virtual reality (VR) engineer. He is best known for his contributions to several influential first-person shooter games such as Wolfenstein 3D, Doom, and Quake.
  • In 1991, Carmack co-founded id Software with co-workers from his former employer Softdisk. Together, they created a number of successful games such as Commander Keen, Doom, Quake, and Half-Life. Carmack also developed numerous pioneering game technologies that were incorporated into modern titles.
  • Carmack joined Oculus Rift in 2013 as its chief technology officer and remained in this role under Facebook after it acquired the company in 2014. He then founded Keen Technologies to pursue his passion for artificial general intelligence.

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