The Nordic Origins of Bluetooth’s Name and Logo
by Andrew Hamilton
What Is Bluetooth?
THE Internet has become increasingly connected to radio (“wireless”). Three common forms of radio communication it utilizes are cellular, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth. Each can be differentiated by the range of its signals.
Cellular networks, owned by large communications companies and governments, transmit signals obtained via cable to a maximum radius of 22-45 miles. These two-way signals carry cell phone voice calls and Internet data. Tablets and laptops equipped to handle cellular can also utilize these networks. Cell signals are the longest range of the three technologies discussed.
Cell towers and antennas are ubiquitous and have a characteristic appearance, although some are concealed inside church steeples, disguised as fake trees, etc. Besides its workaday communications function, cellular technology is a vital component of today’s tightly centralized, worldwide Orwellian propaganda/surveillance apparatus.
Second in terms of range is Wi-Fi, radio signals that extend a few hundred feet. Wireless routers inside homes, businesses, government and ostensibly nongovernmental agencies connect to the outside Internet via cable, telephone lines, satellites, and even cellular networks. Routers are either “behind” or integrated with a modem. (PowerCert Animated Video, “Modem vs Router – What’s the difference?” 7 min., March 6, 2018.)
Wireless routers transmit and receive Internet data, including voice and video, within “local area networks” (LANs) consisting of desktops, laptops, cell phones, tablets, TVs, game consoles, and other digital devices.
Bluetooth is the shortest range of all. The most common type extends to about 30 feet and links virtually all electronic devices, including computers, speakers, headphones, mice, keyboards, printers, phones, ear buds, stereos, TVs, cameras, tablets, and game consoles in close proximity to one another, drastically reducing or eliminating the need for cables and wires.
The underlying technology is quite complex, utilizing very low power radio signals across 79 different frequencies that change 1,600 times per second (“frequency hopping.”).
The Bluetooth Name and Logo
The idea for Bluetooth originated in 1989 with two men employed by the Swedish telecommunications and networking company LM Ericsson, Dr. Nils Rydbeck, Chief Technology Officer of Ericsson Mobile, and inventor Johan Ullman. They wanted to use radio signals to create a wireless headset, and enlisted another Ericsson employee, a Dutchman named Dr. Jaap Hartsen, to assist them.
LM Ericsson had been founded as a telegraph repair shop in Stockholm in 1876 by Lars Magnus Ericsson, who quickly transitioned to phone manufacturing.
Other companies began working on short range radio technology too, including Helsinki-based Finnish telecommunications company Nokia, and Intel in the United States. These early developers foresaw the need for a single wireless technical standard to be used by all manufacturers.
Ultimately the first Bluetooth wireless headset was introduced at the COMDEX computer trade show in 1999, where it won the Best of Show technology award.
Intel’s participant in the project, Jim Kardach, proposed the name “Bluetooth” for the new short-range radio technology standard.
“When asked about the name Bluetooth,” he later wrote, “I explained that Bluetooth was borrowed from the 10th century second King of Denmark, King Harald Bluetooth, who was famous for uniting Scandinavia just as we intended to unite the PC and cellular industries with a short-range wireless link.” (Jim Kardach, “Tech History: How Bluetooth Got Its Name,” EE Times [Electronic Engineering Times], March 5, 2008).
The LM Ericsson company wrote: “Harald Bluetooth was the Viking king that joined two Scandinavian kingdoms [Denmark and Norway] peacefully. Bluetooth was to similarly join telecommunications and computing.”
Ericsson’s Sven Mattisson had brought the Swedish adventure novel The Long Ships by Frans Bengtsson to Karbach’s attention. Originally published in two parts in 1941 and 1945, and set during the time of Harald Bluetooth, it became one of the most widely read books in Sweden, eventually translated into more than 23 languages.
Kardach, a history buff, also read A History of the Vikings (London: Oxford University Press, 1968) by Gwyn Jones, a Welsh miner’s son who was a scholar and translator of Nordic literature and history. Jones had translated several Norse sagas into English.
The Jones book included a photograph of the Jelling stone inscribed by King Harald Bluetooth, a massive Danish rune stone dating from the 900s A.D. The stone is strongly identified with the origin of Denmark as a nation state.
This was the same Bluetooth Kardach had just learned about from Sven Mattisson, prompting him to propose the name Bluetooth for the new wireless standard.
As for the famous Bluetooth logo, the designers combined two Younger Futhark runic symbols dating from the Viking Age, corresponding to H (for Harald) and B (for Bluetooth), to create a single bind rune resulting in the familiar blue and white symbol known the world over today.
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