By Jim Kardach
Senior Principal Engineer, Chief Power Architect,
Alumnus of Fresno State
Reading this one word probably conjures up some product that has the ability to connect to your phone, computer, television or even car. Bluetooth is a fact of modern life and a staple of our technological culture. This wasn’t always the case.
The naming of the invisible wire that connects your headset to your phone occurred almost entirely by accident. Bluetooth was a codename, originating from an historical interest I gained from working with a Scandinavian colleague.
Before 1996, “Bluetooth” exclusively referred to a 10th century King of Denmark. He united Denmark, converted the country to Christianity and we believe he would have wanted notebooks and cell phones to link seamlessly. Ok, I may be taking some historical license with that last point.
Anyway, through a series of unlikely events that you can read here, Bluetooth went from a being a King, to an insider codename and finally to one of the most recognized technology brands in the world.
I have a lot of fun with this story because it demonstrates how quickly the world can change. The idea of Bluetooth, a low-power radio frequency “wire,” seemed so strange in the mid 1990s. One of the highlights of my career is leading the team that made Bluetooth commonplace.
Seamless connectivity was always our goal with Bluetooth. If you can see the wire, you know that things are connected. How do we get that same data to travel just as smoothly and securely on a radio wave, while still being user friendly? Moreover, we want all of this access to be virtually universal so that device A will sync with B, C, D and E – even if they have entirely different manufacturers.
Needless to say, we needed a lot of people to get on the same page, to agree to the same language (digitally speaking) and to adopt the same rules.
When you are creating something new, like Bluetooth, there is no roadmap. No clear step-by-step process. New technologies are driven by doing things differently. I have to credit my Fresno State education for giving me a broad view of engineering that allowed me to bring together novel ideas with the technology and experts who could help connect the dots.
When working with very smart people holding powerful degrees, I have noticed that many academic programs specialize early and provide students a deep knowledge of a very particular field.
My experience at Fresno State provided a much broader foundation. I learned about the engineering of computers, but I also learned about the physics of fluids, heat and waves. What I learned above all else was problem solving.
A deep understanding and expertise is critical, but I found my niche in pulling various pieces of the puzzle together in order to see something different. I attribute much of this ability to the lessons I learned at Fresno State.
Note: Kardach is additionally featured in the “Working for California” project that celebrates CSU alumni leaders.