Long before we heard of esports and accessories that come with it, there was Robert Krakoff, the pioneer of gaming mouse and the company he co-founded, Razer. The amiable techie has passed away at the age of 81, his company has announced.
Among his many innovations, Krakoff will be remembered most for Razer Boomslang — considered the first-ever gaming mouse — from 1999. It was unlike anything the world had seen at that point, coming with a flashy ergonomic design, two huge buttons covering about half of the top of the mouse and between them was a mouse wheel. It was meant to be both for right-handed as well as left-handed gamers. This was at a time, when the computer mouse was a boring piece of grey plastic and it worked just about well for navigating the operating system and software packages but it didn’t help gamers. Unlike most mice of the era which had a sensitivity of about 400 dots per inch, this one had a maximum setting of 2000 dpi. Razer Boomslang gave the gaming peripheral industry a massive boost. Though the term epsorts was far away, Razer signed a historic sponsorship deal with gamer Johnathan “Fatal1ty” Wendel.
Discussing the origin of his company, Krakoff told GameSpot many years ago: “I was a gamer back in the 1990s and was looking for a better mouse, a better way to play and my mouse couldn’t keep up. I was using a home office mouse, a keyboard, a headset… all of the things that came with my system. I was just looking for something better. We were looking at some new technology and it was the first true gaming mouse. We made a lot of changes and now, years later, it’s all grown and we have some good competition.”
The products from Razer have always kept consumer needs in mind. People play different game genres, have different hand sizes, different grips, have different movements and prefer different settings. “We wanted to create a mouse that feels universal.”
The origin story of Razer is not simple. In fact, it wasn’t a company till 2005. It was earlier a trademarked brand of an entity called Karna, which came up with an opto-mechanical encoding wheel that could track a mouse’s movements at 2000 dpi. According to The Verge, Kärna went bankrupt in 2001, and Krakoff co-founded Razer with current CEO Min-Liang Tan in 2005. They didn’t invent the gaming mouse but perfected it. Razer’s first press release mentions: “Designed by Fitch, Inc. for Karna, the Razer Boomslang will meet the demanding needs of the serious gamer by joining a slick design with high-tech features and innovative technology.” And it also quoted Krakoff, “general manager for Razer”: “The Razer Boomslang is so fast, you’re almost unnecessary. The high performance of the Razer Boomslang is an example of technology’s dark side made efficient.”
What made Razer products memorable are the messages from Razerguy with every Razer product you purchased. His email was in the public domain, he often interacted with fans and was always game for interviews at product exhibitions.
Krakoff grew up in Los Angles in the 1940s and ’50s and studied journalism at UCLA himself (on a football scholarship). He also played five years for the LA Rams and worked as a copywriter for 11 years. Besides Razer, he also founded MindFX Science, which is focused on selling energy drinks and supplements. Always in good shape, he has written books about senior fitness, the first of which is Senior War on Aging.
The tech innovator divided his time between Jalisco, Mexico and Peoria, Arizona, and he leaves behind two children, Scott and Robin, and five grandchildren. Once asked what superpower he would like had been a part of manga, Krakoff said he should be able to jump off the couch and land in any game show anywhere in the world.