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In 1996, when Bluetooth appeared in the tech world, most people didn’t pay attention to the strange-sounding name. In later years, some curious people Googled it only to discover the story you’re about to read, and history buffs were probably surprised to see the name of a Danish king used for a technology wireless standard.
Harald “Bluetooth” Gormsson (Harald Blåtand Gormsen in Danish) was the king of Denmark and Norway from 958 AD to around 985 AD and is widely known for uniting the two countries. He’s also known for trying to convert Danes to Christianity, but that’s another story.
Now, Bluetooth has become the wireless technology standard millions of people have used since the mid-90s in order to exchange data over short distances from fixed and mobile devices. And it got its name from this fabled king. Can you see the connection between those two? Jim Kardash, an engineer working for wireless technologies at Intel could, so he came up with the name because, as he has said, just as Harald Bluetooth united Scandinavia, the wireless technology we’re all now familiar with would unite PCs and mobile phones with a short-range wireless link.
But even Kardash, who on a blog post claims to be a history fan, probably wouldn’t have thought to use this name if he hadn’t been on a pub crawl with his counterpart Sven Mattisson from Ericsson. While discovering Toronto’s bars after a business meeting – and maybe several Caesars – Kardash started talking about his favourite subject: history. Mattisson, who happened to have read Longships by Frans G. Bengtsson, a novel about the adventures of Viking Röde Orm set in the 10th century (the period Harald Bluetooth reigned), shared all the historical knowledge he had gained through this book. That’s how the idea about the name popped up in Kardash’s head.
So, when representatives from Intel, Ericsson and Nokia met at the Ericsson plant in Lund, Sweden in December 1996 in order to plan the standardization of this short-range radio technology, Kardash proposed to use the name Bluetooth until the project was finalised and the marketing team would come up with a better one. And so it happened.
On Bluetooth’s official site, it’s stated that the permanent name officially picked by the board members was PAN (Personal Area Networking) which was proposed by IBM. But three weeks before the launch event for PAN, detailed research on the internet showed that there were already tens of thousands of hits for PAN, making it an unsuitable name for a trademark. As it was already too late to find a new name, SIG decided to go with the only choice they had left: Bluetooth. As it turned out, the need to find a name in such a short notice was a blessing in disguise. Bluetooth and its logo (which is a Younger Futhark bind-rune for Harald’s initials, H (ᚼ) and B (ᛒ)) was picked up fast by the press and quickly spread in the industry.
And if you’re wondering how the king got this name in the first place, it is said he owes it to a bad tooth that was dark blue.