Do you recognize that logo? You should – it’s one of the most recognizable symbols in the world. More than 92% of the population recognizes it!

But… what is Bluetooth, exactly? It’s one of those technologies we see every day but never really think about. However, the story is actually quite fascinating…

First things first: What’s Bluetooth?

If you google it, you get an answer like:

Bluetooth is a wireless technology standard for exchanging data between fixed and mobile devices over short distances using short-wavelength UHF blah blah blah…

What a mouthful. No wonder nobody really knows how Bluetooth works! Let’s try again, but with less technical jargon:

Bluetooth is a universal way for different types of devices to communicate with each other at short range. Think of it like a language; each device has its own language that it uses to operate. However, other devices don’t speak that language, so they need a universal language to communicate with each other.

Bluetooth is that “universal language”. It allows even devices that operate very differently from each other, like headphones and a computer, to connect and work together easily.

(Of course, it’s only meant for short ranges. Just like the human voice, Bluetooth can’t communicate at long distances. Nor was it meant to – imagine scrolling through a list of the whole world’s headphones just to find yours!)

Almost all modern devices use Bluetooth, regardless of the brand who made it. This is great for everyone involved. It allows brands to create new products without worrying about whether or not their customers will be able to connect them to their favorite devices. It also makes life easier for us consumers, because we only have to learn Bluetooth and don’t have to worry about anything else.

Who created Bluetooth?

True to its eventual use, Bluetooth was a collaboration between multiple major technology companies: Nokia, Intel, Ericsson, Toshiba, and IBM.

Back in 1998, each of these companies was developing their own system similar to Bluetooth. Ericsson was building something called the “MC-Link” and Intel was building something similar called “Business-RF”.

At one point, they must have realized how silly that was – they were all creating their own unique languages to connect their own devices. However, that means their devices wouldn’t be able to communicate with devices made by anyone else.

That would either limit people’s choices to a single brand, or require complicated techniques to connect devices that spoke different “languages”.

Thankfully, they all got together and agreed to create one single universal standard. To accomplish this, they created the Bluetooth Special Interest Group in 1998 with their brightest engineers.

They didn’t waste any time. The first Bluetooth-enabled device launched just one year later, in 1999. The first mobile phone with Bluetooth followed shortly thereafter, reaching stores in 2001.

The collaboration was a smashing success, and the new “language” became the world’s standard for cross-device communication. It remains under oversight of The Bluetooth Special Interest Group, a not-for-profit organization.

Now that you know how Bluetooth works and why it’s important, there must be one last question on your mind…

Why the heck is it called “Bluetooth”?!

For something so technical, you would expect a boring name like “Universal Cross-Device Language” or “Communication Protocol 1.58b” right?

Nope. Bluetooth got lucky – it’s actually named after a Danish king!

The story goes that two engineers (who would eventually work on Bluetooth together) were having a beer back in 1997. They started talking about history, and one of them brought up King Harald “Bluetooth” Gormsson.

King Bluetooth was responsible for uniting various parts of Scandinavia back in the 10th century. The engineers thought this was a fitting name for their project, so they used it as a temporary title… but it was so good, it stuck.

Bonus: The logo is a combination of his initials (H.B.) in Nordic letters!

On second thought, “Communication Protocol 1.58b” has a nice ring to it…

13 comments on “Innovations Explained: What is Bluetooth?

  1. Edith Rees on

    Why was King Harald called “Bluetooth”? Did he have a blue tooth? My late husband was a dentist and I don’t think he ever came upon anybody with blue teeth.

    Reply
  2. C on

    I have found Bluetooth to be problematic! I go through the silly steps to pair two devices (i.e. my TV output and a Bluetooth headphone) and the next time I try to use it, I have to go through the pairing process all over again. With my old analog wireless headphones (using an FM radio signal) I simply turn it on and I am good to go. They both have about the same range and clarity. So what is the so called “improvement” with Bluetooth? Pairing should happen automatically and not be something I have to be involved with!

    Reply
  3. Betty Patterson on

    My grandson just gave me a night head band with Bluetooth so I can go to sleep with music from my ipad , but I need to know how do I get Bluetooth on my computer Mac Pro .

    Reply
  4. Patsy McLaughlin on

    I see comments from other seniors here. We are the ones who needed that fine, understandable explanation. Our grandkids already know!!😅

    Reply
  5. Eric Carman on

    I am 92 years old, have just bought a new smart TV which has “Bluetooth” wow!.
    I now have Blue-toothed 2 speakers, one for my wife to control her own volume and one for myself, this has made an enormous difference in our listening to a TV show, we can now hear and understand, it’s the answer for us seniors who have a little hearing problem.

    Reply
  6. James Eddington on

    Yeah great story makes things clear really enjoyed I’d and rubble to see if my television has television has Bluetooth on it I’ll try to figure that out thanks so much

    Reply
  7. Dalene Blackie on

    The explanation is easy to understand also made me feel “ intelligent “. I am 83 and uses my devices daily, but didn’t understand the meaning of Bluetooth; now I even know where the name came from.
    Thank you for this Gem.

    Reply
  8. Cam Turner on

    Much clearer answer than I’ve ever come across. I feel confident enough to explain to someone else now, without sounding like I don’t know what I’m talking about! Thankyou

    Reply
  9. Cornelia Hendershot on

    Thank you. As an 80 year old grandmother I use technology but don’t really understand the deep story. This story is a gem. Can’t wait for the next one.

    Reply
  10. Daniel on

    Wonderfully written. Not any fluff and easily understood. Woke my brain up this rainy morning here in Portland Oregon. I wonder what enlightenment you have for next week.

    Reply

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