Bluetooth technology is commonplace and familiar to most people. It refers to the wireless connection between electronic devices such as mobile phones, PCs, printers, or music systems.

But what most people don't know is that the technology is named after the Danish Viking king Harald Blåtann (Bluetooth).

According to the official Bluetooth website, the name for the technology dates back more than 1,000 years to King Harald “Bluetooth” Gormsson, who was well known for uniting Denmark and Norway in 958 and for his dead tooth, which was a dark blue/grey color, and earned him the nickname Bluetooth.

The backstory

The major technology companies Intel, Ericsson, Nokia, and Toshiba worked together in the '90s to create a common standard for wireless transmission between computers and mobile phones.

The Swedish engineer Sven Mattisson from Ericsson and the American Jim Kardach from Intel were in a group that worked together. In 1997, long before the time of online meetings, Mattisson traveled all the way to Canada from Sweden for a one-hour strategy meeting in Toronto.

Kardach, Mattisson, and others from the group presented their ideas for wireless technology at a seminar. But the project didn't receive much acclaim.

"Jim and I understood that people did not appreciate what we presented," Mattisson, who has turned 65 and is at the end of his career at Ericsson, noted in March of 2021, according to news bureau NTB.

"We received a lukewarm reception in relation to our perhaps somewhat unclear project, and it was at this point that I realized that we needed a code name for the project that everyone could use," Kardach notes on his website.

A night out

After the meeting, the two needed to drown their sorrows. They decided to spend the night out. At a bar in downtown Toronto, they started talking history, one of Kardach's great passions.

"We had a few beers, and since Jim was interested in stories about Vikings, it became the night's big topic of conversation," Mattisson recalls. 

They started talking about an important historical figure in Scandinavia in the 10th century, the king of Denmark. He had the nickname "Bluetooth," which probably referred to a dead tooth, or as others would have it - that the blue color was due to the king's fondness of blueberries.

Regardless, the Viking and King of Denmark, Harald Blåtann, son of Gorm the Elder, was known to be a skilled communicator. During his reign, Denmark turned its back on pagan beliefs and Norse gods and gradually converted to Christianity.

But he is perhaps best known for having united parts of Norway and Denmark.

A good parallel

A king who united Scandinavian rivals? The two men who wanted to unite the PC and mobile industry through a wireless connection liked the parallel.

The Bluetooth technology was finally launched in May 1998, and the first consumer device equipped with the technology came on the market in 1999.

Bluetooth was intended as a placeholder until marketing could come up with a better name. However, when it came time to select a serious name, Bluetooth was to be replaced with either RadioWire or PAN (Personal Area Networking). PAN was the front runner, but an exhaustive search discovered it already had tens of thousands of hits throughout the internet, the official Bluetooth website notes.

A full trademark search on RadioWire couldn't be completed in time for launch, making Bluetooth the only choice - so the name became permanent. 

The technology logo today consists of Harald Blåtann's initials in runes, H and B.

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