Of Bluetooth Headphones and Viking Kings

By MediaMonkey

April 19, 2022
A relief of Harald’s baptism, made c. 1200.

We at Supajam will be honest, we’ve never given much thought to why Bluetooth is called Bluetooth. The fact a wildly popular wireless communication system should involve a colour in a colourless system and mention a tooth in something entirely non physical never chimed. We just thought it was some daft idea a focus group agreed with, like the period when Android had an operating system called Ice Cream Sandwich. Well, it turns out we were wrong.

It turns out the name Bluetooth is fascinating.

Okay, hyperbole, but consider this: Bluetooth has that title as it’s named after someone… and not just any someone, an actual Viking king called Bluetooth!

Let’s start at the middle. In 1996, an Intel engineer called Jim Kardach who knew about Viking history was involved with the development of a wireless comms technology. He suggested using Bluetooth as a codename, until the PR people had decided on an actual saleable name, because Bluetooth was a way of uniting personal computers, mobile phones, systems and more tech, and King Harald “Bluetooth” Gormsson united both the kingdoms of Denmark and Norway under him. Kardach even produced the Bluetooth symbol by combining Danish runes for Harald’s initials.

… and it was only ever meant to be temporary until someone did the real name. But it stuck, never was replaced (the leading term to use, ‘PAN’, was too common to adopt and according to Bluetooth’s official website they ran out of time to research anything else), and now King Bluetooth lives on in a way. There’s some minor disagreement on why he got his nickname, but the ‘he ate a lot of blueberries’ idea is pure web meme, it’s generally considered he had a dead and discoloured tooth.

Next time you’re using your wireless headphones or mouse (and getting pinged by the NHS app), just think Vikings.

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