Bluetooth wireless transmission technology has quickly become a part of our daily lives and is a real blessing for anyone who wants to get rid of cables. Whether it’s to listen to music from a smartphone or DAP paired with a portable speaker, Bluetooth headphones or True Wireless IEMs, or to enjoy records on a Bluetooth turntable connected to a pair of wireless speakers or a connected hi-fi amplifier, many wireless-enabled devices feature this technology represented by a strange rune on a blue background. So what is the origin of this symbol and where does the curious name “Bluetooth” come from?
A code for collaboration
In 1996, three telecommunications industry leaders, Intel, Ericsson and Nokia, came together to organize the standardization of short-range radio transmission technology to support connectivity and collaboration between different devices and industries.
During one of the meetings, Jim Kardach, engineer for Intel, suggested Bluetooth as a temporary code name for this transmission technology. This name suggested by Kardach originates from King Harald Bluetooth, known to have unified Scandinavia, thus echoing the unification of the computing and mobile phone industries with a short range wireless connection. A temporary name that ended up becoming the official name of this transmission technology.
The king with the blue tooth
Harald Gormsson was a Viking king who lived in the 10th century. Mostly known for unifying Denmark in 980, Harald then set his sights on territories beyond the borders of his own kingdom and conquered Norway. However, this Nordic king is also known for another, more surprising reason: his dead tooth, which was dark blue/gray in color, that earned him the nickname Harald Blåtand, or Harald Bluetooth in English. The Bluetooth logo is a therefore directly inspired by the runic initials of King Harald Blåtand: ᚼ (Hagall or H) + ᛒ (Bjarkan or B).
An iconic name
When it came time to choose a final name, the term Bluetooth was to be replaced by RadioWire or PAN (Personal Area Networking). The first choice was to be PAN. However, a quick internet search revealed that this name was already widely used.
As a full trademark search on RadioWire couldn’t be completed in time for the official launch of the technology, the term Bluetooth became the final choice. The term Bluetooth was quickly adopted and became synonymous with short-range wireless technology.
King Harald Bluetooth certainly had no idea that, more than a thousand years later, his blue tooth would inspire the name of a wireless transmission system!