Bluetooth: Wireless Technology from a Medieval Norwegian King?

By Karen Harris

The statue of a Viking King is displayed at International Antalya Sand Sculpture Festival (Photo by Okan Ozer/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

If you have ever thought that Bluetooth was an odd name for wireless technology, you are not alone. After all, most Bluetooth devices are not blue and none of them have to do with your teeth. As strange as it may seem, Bluetooth technology was named after a fierce and powerful medieval king of Norway and Denmark who would have probably been forgotten in the pages of the history books if it weren’t for a consortium of technology companies, including IBM, Nokia, Ericsson, and Intel. In 1996, this consortium got together to develop a standard close range wireless transmission and receiving software for cellphones, tablets, and laptops. The group was stuck on a name for their innovation…until a medieval king named Harald Bluetooth stepped from the history books. 


King Harald Bluetooth United Scandinavia

Between 940 and 986, the regions now known as Norway and Denmark were ruled by a powerful and progressive king, Harald Gormsson who was known by the nickname Bluetooth. According to legend, King Bluetooth had a dead front tooth that had turned a bluish-black in color, thus giving him his memorable nickname. Despite his dental issues, King Bluetooth was notable for uniting all of Scandinavia together. He was also the leader that converted Denmark to Christianity. 

Jelling Stone (Pinterest)

King Bluetooth Was Committed to Public Works

Throughout his reign, King Bluetooth commissioned various public works projects. He oversaw the construction of the oldest known bridge in the region, the Ravning Bridge, located in southern Scandinavia. He constructed five ring forts at strategic points across his kingdom. He also expanded and reinforced the Aros fortress and ordered the reconstruction of the Jelling runic stones. Many of his construction projects served to unify the people and towns in Scandinavia and improve communications, as well as the economics of the area. 

(Intel Newsroom_

Wireless Technology Was Named Bluetooth After a Night of Drinking

Some of the best ideas are born after a night of drinking! As the story goes, the engineers for Intel and Ericsson, Jim Kardach and Sven Mattisson, went out for a few drinks in Toronto in the mid-1990s. The two engineers started discussing history and Mattisson, who had just read The Longships by Frans G. Bengtsson which related the exploits of King Bluetooth and how he brought people together. Kardach thought that Bluetooth would make an ideal name for the technology they were developing. Bluetooth served as a placeholder for the wireless technology until the consortium could come up with a better name. They settled on the IBM suggestions of PAN, which stood for personal area networking. 

IBM’s Choice of Name Created a SEO Nightmare

Although the consortium agreed on the name PAN, they soon found that it posed some challenges. First, it was so open-ended that it presented some trademark issues. Second, when PAN was run through internet search engines, it yielded hundreds of thousands of results. The consortium wanted a name that would be more searchable and memorable. Bluetooth fit the criteria perfectly. It was catchy, unique, memorable, and easily found when doing a Google search. 

The Bluetooth Logo is King Bluetooth’s Initials

Once the name Bluetooth was accepted for the name of the short-range wireless technology, the marketing department was tasked with creating a logo. This turned out to be quite easy. The Bluetooth logo that is now so easily recognized is actually King Bluetooth’s initial as they would be written in Scandinavian runes…ᚼ and ᛒ for H and B...on top of each other. 

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Karen Harris


Karen left the world of academic, quitting her job as a college professor to write full-time. She spends her days with her firefighter husband and four daughters on a hobby farm with an assortment of animals, including a goat named Atticus, a turkey named Gravy, and a chicken named Chickaletta.