Origin Stories: Bluetooth


Here follows a story so surreal it's hard to believe it's true:

Once upon a time the King of Denmark was Harald Blåtand, or Harald I. His family's rule was more like a dynasty. Born in 910CE (or thereabouts), he ruled Denmark and its expanding empire for decades. 

In the legends passed down since, King Harald was always known for his ability to bring together leaders to non-violently negotiate. To discuss, share information, and, crucially, commuicate across boundaries -- particularly in the expansion and unification of Norway and Denmark in this era.

A thousand years later (literally!) -- in the depths of the 1990's -- several tech giants were developing short-range wireless communication models. Back in the days of brightly-colored iMacs and cell phones without cameras, Nokia, Intel, and Ericsson (among others) were creating tools to transfer information packets from phones to PCs and back without cords and cables.

At a meeting -- in Sweden -- some designers and engineers got together to talk about this concept. One of the developers wanted a better name for the project than MC-Link or Biz-RF. So in his presentation he gave the new model a codename inspired by this ancienct communication king. A fun, silly codename and literal translation of Blåtand: Bluetooth.

In the presentation, the developers even included ancient stone memorials depicting King Harald. (Naturally, the images were photoshopped to show Harald holding a cell phone...) Jim Kardach, one of the developers, tells the fuller story -- complete with screenshots of the original King Harald-inspired PowerPoint slides over on EETimes.

The borrowed name Bluetooth was meant to be a placeholder until something official came together. But when this close-range tech was ready for market, the name Bluetooth caught on like wildfire. It's the name we still use for the interface which connects keyboards, mice, cell phones, and other devices the world over.

Best of all, though, that tell-tale Bluetooth icon on your desktop is his, too. The pointy, hatchmark symbol we associate with easy, painless information sharing across hundreds of languages and file types is the result of merging the Old Norse runic symbols for 'H' and 'B'.

Not only is Harald's legacy of open communication alive and well, but his initials, in a long dead language, still mark this practice for billions of people everyday. Now that's living beyond the grave.



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