If you’ve ever used a Bluetooth device, then may be wondering just why it has such an odd name, and an even more unusual logo. We have so many odd names for the technology we use every day (the PodMatic 3000 with Ambient Milk Design!), that at first glance it seems like another brand made up by throwing darts blindfolded at a wall full of random words. However Bluetooth actually has a fascinating story behind it, and it involves Vikings!
In 10th Century Scandinavia, Denmark was ruled by a king called ‘Harald Gormsson’. The son of King Gorm of Old, he ruled Denmark and parts of Norway from about 958 to 986. He was responsible for several public works - including the enormous runic ‘Jelling Stones’ - but his lasting legacy is that he unified the disparate Danish tribes under a single ruler, and converted the country to Christianity. On the Jelling Stone mentioned above, there is this inscription:
King Harald bade these memorials to be made after Gorm, his father, and Thyra, his mother. The Harald who won the whole of Denmark and Norway and turned the Danes to Christianity.
Evidence suggests Harald was perhaps exaggerating his achievements a wee bit, but the fact remains that he is known as a unifier: of people, of religions, and of nations.
He also had a curious nickname - ‘Bluetooth’. No-one is entirely sure why he was called this: some historians think he may have had a single bad tooth that was seriously discoloured, giving it a blue hue. Others have suggested he had a weakness for blueberries or other foods that would have stained his teeth and mouth.
So… why all this talk of Norse kings? Well, in the mid-1990s several tech companies were working on short-range radio technologies to communicate between computers and peripherals, such as wireless headsets. Some of these firms decided to band together to create an industry standard for short-range wireless communication: these included IBM, Intel and the Swedish company Ericsson.
They needed a codename for the project, and since the tech was meant to unify disparate communication protocols, they decided to name it after Harald ‘Bluetooth’ Gormsson! It was originally a temporary moniker, but everyone liked it so much that in 1998 was made the official name.
Finally: the logo. It’s definitely unique and eye-catching, but it’s not just random lines - it is actually a ‘bind rune’ made up of 2 nordic runes - ‘H’ (Hagall) and ‘B’ (Bjarkan). HB… Harald Bluetooth!
So there we go - pretty cool, right? The next time you’re using bluetooth headphones or webcams, say thanks to Harald!