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Why bluetooth technology is named after a Viking king

Why bluetooth technology is named after a Viking king

Harald Bluetooth, who was king of Denmark and also of Norway in the late 10th century, inspired the name by which the wireless technology standard is known.

Sometimes something new happens to become something everyday and its name is integrated into our vocabulary without asking us where that word comes from. And the origin is not always clear. Yes it is in terms like ‘smartphone’ (just a few basic notions of English) or ‘tablet’ (just look at the shape of the device), but what about ‘bluetooth’? Here English does not clarify anything. Who came up with call a wireless technology ‘blue tooth’ radiofrequency? To Jim Kardach and he did it thinking of a Viking king.

The creation of the bluetooth standard is one of those moments in which several companies come together to launch a common tool that offers a benefit to the industry as a whole. But in these cases it sometimes happens that the will of some companies runs up against their own distrust of the rivals that are collaborating.

At the end of the 1990s, the electronics industry had a special interest in finding a solution for wirelessly connect computers, mobile phones, mice and keyboards, headsets and other devices. A standard technology was needed that would allow short range communication and consume little battery power.

Jim Kardach, a computer engineer at Intel, received an assignment from his boss in 1997. He asked if he would be able to come up with a solution to bring wireless communication to a laptop. Kardach got down to business, but he did not work alone. Intel partnered with Ericsson, IBM, Nokia and Toshibawhich at that time represented approximately 60% of the market for laptops and mobiles, to create a non profit group that would promote the development of the desired wireless technology.

Harald Bluetooth, the king who gave bluetooth its name

Ericsson mistrusted Nokia, a feeling that was mutual, while with Toshiba and IBM the same scheme was repeated. This left Intel as the leader by discarding the rest. And Kardach was given freedom to act on certain plots, such as the name.

Once the technology was in development, it was necessary to call it in some way. Intel engineer at the time I was reading a book about vikings and one of the characters was Harald Bluetooth. He proposed it and shortly thereafter the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) was formally established, with the companies involved as members.

The name was not a mere whim, it has its metaphorical meaning. Harald Bluetooth (who was actually called Harald Blatand, meaning dark and great man, but translating it into English as Bluetooth) is known for unifying the Viking tribes under the Christian religion. He reigned in Denmark from 958 and also in Norway from 970 until his death in 986.

At that time that region of Europe was dominated by the Vikings, whose system of government was based on family clans with great power. The king was a figure whose authority was easily challenged. But Harald Bluetooth unified during his reign the Danish and Norwegian tribes, spreading conversion to Christianity. In the same way that wireless technology would serve to unify communication between devices very different, not to mention that Kardach had to save the rivalry of his collaborators to unify the efforts of all.

A logo based on runes

The logo could not be less than the name and to design it the runes of the initials of the king were chosen. Harald Bluetooth’s ‘H’ and ‘B’ come from both Hagall and Berkana, the corresponding representations in the runic alphabet. The drawing of the second is more familiar, a ‘B’ made up of a vertical stick and two adjoining triangles, while the first consists of a vertical stick crossed by an X in the middle. The confluence of the two runes results in the bluetooth logo.

A technology present in our day to day

Since Bluetooth has come into our lives, we live with it on a daily basis in a very natural and fluid way, since this technology is present in numerous electronic devices such as headphones, smartphones or remote controls.

This is the case of the Movistar+ Voice Control, a new remote control with Aura, Movistar’s virtual assistant, integrated.

With this remote control and the HDU Decoder you can be anywhere in the living room controlling your Movistar television, a clear example of how this technology, nicknamed like a Viking king, will continue to be present among us for many years to come.

Images: Christian Lambert Photography and Wikipedia