Bluetooth, the wireless technology used in computers, smart phones, and other devices is named for Herald Bluetooth, the tenth-century king of Denmark and parts of Norway.
Why? Because Bluetooth was a famous unifier, bringing the Danes under a single kingship.
This figure of unification was an inspiration to Jim Kardach, who happened to be reading Frans Gunnar Bengtsson’s historical novel The Long Ships about the Vikings and King Herald Bluetooth when he was also busy inventing a system to unite mobile phone communication protocols. Hence, Bluetooth became the name for the unifier of wireless protocols as well as warring Danish tribes.
Rather than being a stylized B, the Bluetooth logo is also drawn from King Herald. The logo is a modern form of a Viking “bind rune,” a combination or “ligature” of two or more runes, the letters used by Vikings. By combining the Hagall and Bjarkan runes from the Younger Futhark runic alphabet, we arrive at bind rune that combines King Herald’s initials and conveniently looks like an English letter B.
The logos angular style is a consequence of the how runes were used by the Vikings and other early Germanic peoples. Rather than putting pen to paper, Viking writing was primarily preserved on wood, stone, or on ceremonial objects such as weapons or jewelry. This explains why many runic alphabets have few round features, as carving such shapes into these hard surfaces would have been exceedingly difficult. Similarly, most runic alphabets have no horizontal strokes, as when carving along an axe handle or staff horizontal strokes would be along the wood grain, making them illegible or even splitting the wood.
And that’s why a King who conquered the Danes 1000 years ago has his name emblazoned, in a form he may have recognized, on the screens of iPhones, iPads, Macs, and other devices around the world.
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