Dongle

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The OED glosses dongle as "A software protection device which must be plugged into a computer to enable the protected software to be used on it", and gives the earliest citation as

1982 MicroComputer Printout Jan. 19/2 The word ‘dongle’ has been appearing in many articles with reference to security systems for computer software [refers to alleged coinage in 1980].

(The etymology is given as [Arbitrary], which seems a bit harsh.)

But Suzanne Kemmer recently observed in an email to me that "people are using  "dongle" to mean anything that can plug into a USB port, and since for most users that is a flash drive, 'dongle' can now be used for a garden-variety flash drive".

She cites a wisegeek page that says:

A storage or memory USB dongle, also called a memory stick, provides a convenient means to pass files between computers or devices. [...] Another type of USB dongle can add WiFi® functionality to a computer to provide wireless Internet connectivity. [...] If you require Bluetooth® a personal area network (PAN) used to wirelessly connect your digital devices to each other — consider a USB Bluetooth® dongle.

And most important, Suzanne sent a link to the trailer for Stephen Fry's "new audio series" The Dongle of Donald Trefusis, from which I took the somewhat steampunkish screenshot above.

Who is Donald Trefusis? The publicity page explains that:

Donald Cornwallis Treadway Trefusis, eccentric senior tutor and professor of philology at St. Matthew’s College, Cambridge, is a fictional character created by Stephen Fry.

Something of a perennial entity in the Fry canon, Donald Trefusis was a major figure in his first novel The Liar, and subsisted viva voce for the occasional contributions to Ned Sherrin’s BBC Radio 4 programme Loose Ends – the transcripts of which were subsequently published as essays in Paperweight.

A veritable polymath and metalinguist, Trefusis is distinguished by his very liberal social outlook, his propensity for old-fashioned phraseology, and his curious use of the non-sequitur as greeting (e.g. “Hugely so to you all”).

Episode #1 was released on May 26, and is apparently the most popular iTunes download in the UK these days. It's also doing well in the U.S. — "most popular audiobook" or something like that — but I haven't seen any uptake in the U.S. media yet.

The current meaning for dongle seems to be something like "a self-contained device that plugs into a  port on a computer that is normally used for connections to a separate external device". Thus in addition to the original serial-port dongles, and the USB dongles that Suzanne (and Stephen Fry) wrote about, there are also "firewire dongles", and presumably there could be dongles for any other sort of port as well.

[I'm not familiar enough with Stephen Fry's work to guess whether his character Donald Trefusis is meant to echo Shaw's Sidney Trefusis in An Unsocial Socialist. But my sense of the name's Wodehousian connotations is nicely evoked by the lead sentence of its top hit in the NYT's archive (from Dec. 20, 1885):

A great and very painful sensation was excited throughout Devonshire on Friday by the news that Col. Walter Trefusis had died suddenly on the previous evening in London, where he had just arrived with Lady Mary Trefusis from Ditton Park, the Dowager Duchess of Buccleuch's place in Bucks, where he had been staying for about three weeks.

]

[Thanks to the tip from Brett below, here are three Dilbert cartoons on the subject of changes in the meaning of dongle:

]



54 Comments

  1. jfruh said,

    June 3, 2009 @ 9:41 am

    I certainly wouldn't limit the use of the term to just one for security systems, or to things that plug into a particular kind of port, but for me the defining characteristic of a dongle is that it dangles — it should be kind of floppy. A USB flash drive is generally stiff and very un-dongle-like.

  2. Will Fitzgerald said,

    June 3, 2009 @ 9:44 am

    It does seem surprising that the OED doesn't reference the similarity to dangle.

  3. Victor Mair said,

    June 3, 2009 @ 9:45 am

    Many online sources state that the word is probably derived from an alteration of "dangle."

  4. Andrew Watts said,

    June 3, 2009 @ 9:45 am

    Pretty much everyone I know calls the adaptor that you plug into a DVI port on a laptop to connect it to a projector with a DSUB connector a dongle. I know I've been using it that way for at least 5 years.

    I think a lot of people generalized the DVI-DSUB adaptor as a dongle from the ethernet and wireless adaptor dongles, as in definition 3 on the Jargon File, which is where I know I originally picked up the term dongle from.

    Personally, I've never heard it used for a flash drive; only for things like wireless adaptors or something that in some way mediates a connection to something.

  5. mollymooly said,

    June 3, 2009 @ 9:52 am

    I can't condone "arbitrary" being given so boldly and baldly as an etymology. Either tell us who the coiner was, or add "apparently".

  6. Ray Girvan said,

    June 3, 2009 @ 9:59 am

    The OED completely misses an older use of "dongle" as an onomatopoeic word for the sound of a bell: e.g.

    Of the days of Auld Lang Syne,
    That pealed its clamor and pealed its clangs,
    Its dongs, its dingle, dongle, dangs,
    Whose liquid monotones did leap and swell,
    And roll and rage through molten cell,
    Through curve, ellipse, and parallel,
    In beating out its time,
    In calling off the school-boys' time

    – from "The Broken Bell", G. Nelson Brigham, 1874

  7. Brett said,

    June 3, 2009 @ 10:00 am

    I noticed changes in the use of "dongle" starting almost ten years ago. I theorized that most computer users had limited exposure to dongles, since they were characteristic of pretty high-end business software. Based on this limited information, people drew their own inferences about what the word meant, probably aided by the similarity to "dangle," which probably inspired the "arbitrary" "dongle."

    I'm probably not the only one who noticed the shifts in usage. Three Dilbert cartoons (1/26/05 to 1/28/05) focused on confusion about the meaning of the word. Although the actual meanings weren't discussed, I took the strips as an allusion to the actual confusion, which the tech-savvy Scott Adams must have also observed.

    "I just fired off a scathing letter to a columnist for mis-using the word 'dongle'. I'm intoxicated with the feeling of verbal superiority. My sad life has meaning. I feel alive!"
    – Carol the Secretary

  8. Mark Liberman said,

    June 3, 2009 @ 10:01 am

    With many millions of iTunes downloads for The Dongle of Donald Trefusis, I think we can conclude that the use of dongle to mean "USB memory stick" (or "thumb drive" or whatever) has won a place in the language, whether the objects in question dangle or don't.

  9. Josh Millard said,

    June 3, 2009 @ 10:15 am

    I happily call my USB EVDO adapter a "dongle", but I fit into Brett's theorized class of people who never really had exposure to actual security dongles. I was aware in abstract that such things existed, but that was it.

    I don't know that I ever consciously associated "dongle" with "dangle", though. I think of the word as meaning in practice essentially what Mark suggested: "a self-contained device that plugs into a port on a computer that is normally used for connections to a separate external device", though with less explicit emphasis on the "that is normally…" bit, as my dongles Self-Contained USB Devices spend at least as much time in my USB ports as anything else does.

  10. Mark P said,

    June 3, 2009 @ 10:25 am

    I've been using personal computers long enough (actually, since the beginning of personal computers with keyboards) that I remember the original computer-related meaning of dongle as a security device, and I also remember that "dangle" was distinctly implied. That would be around 30 years ago, but computer years are very densely packed, so changes in usage are not surprising. I haven't seen dongle used for a USB memory stick, but I don't read the computer magazines much anymore, so I don't keep up with current usage.

  11. Sili said,

    June 3, 2009 @ 10:30 am

    I didn't realise there was a canon of Trefusiana – I guess I need to use Itunes more.

    I can only recommend reading The Liar, though.

    (I, too, assumed it had something to do with dangling. Many wireless/3G internet applications seem to come with a short lead that makes that connection natural.)

  12. Ray Girvan said,

    June 3, 2009 @ 10:31 am

    Just from recollection – I am old enough to remember the things – the original dongles didn't all dangle. Some did: these comprised a port plug with a short (inch or two) cable to the hardware gadget. Others were stiff inline connectors – the one shown here is typical – that typically sat between printer port and printer.

  13. cameron said,

    June 3, 2009 @ 10:32 am

    Among computer programmers, the term "dongle" used to have some currency as a general equivalent to "thingamajig". For example, an older programmer I used to work with back in the mid 90s, used the term with reference to the user interface control called an OptionMenu – he called the little button with a down-arrow on it, which one would click on to make the OptionMenu display its drop-down list of options a "dongle". Other parts of user interface widgets would also be called dongles in some cases. Typical useage would be along the lines of "When the user clicks on that dongle over there – they get the list of departments to choose from." I only ever heard this term used this was in the context of user-interface design, and only ever to refer to a sub-component of some user interface control (or "widget"). A simple control, like a button, wouldn't have been called a dongle, but the clickable sub-component of an OptioonMenu or ComboBox might have been called a dongle.

    I haven't heard anyone use the term in this sense in many years.

  14. John Lawler said,

    June 3, 2009 @ 10:43 am

    Note that the menu/interface usage that Cameron describes above does make something (a menu onscreen) 'dangle', or as it's put nowadays, 'drop down'.
    I too remember the hardware copy-protection originals and agree that dangling somehow was involved in the prototype sense, but since I always avoided them like the plague and also don't read the mags any more, I hadn't noticed the change. Thanks, Mark.

  15. Andrew said,

    June 3, 2009 @ 10:50 am

    Douglas Adams (who was a friend of Stephen Fry) wrote an article about little dongly things; by this he means external power adaptors.

  16. Dan T. said,

    June 3, 2009 @ 11:15 am

    There was an urban legend / folk etymology about the word supposedly being named after somebody named Don Gall who invented the thing.

  17. Ton van der Wouden said,

    June 3, 2009 @ 11:23 am

    Dongle is explicitly Dutchified into Dongel by telecom provider KPN to denote a mobile internet modem with a usb interface http://www.metjelaptoponline.nl/nieuws/dongel

  18. MattF said,

    June 3, 2009 @ 11:27 am

    I think 'dongle' has always been generic– it's just that back in the old days, the only kind of dongle in common use was a security dongle. Nowadays, of course, everything dongles…

  19. Ed Cormany said,

    June 3, 2009 @ 11:41 am

    i definitely find the use of 'dongle' to describe a USB drive to be a bit strange. on the other hand, i agree that sticking to the old security device definition in a strict sense seems too limited. i think my intuition of what dongle-hood entails is something like "a small device that plugs into a computer that does not by itself provide any functionality, but enables the use of some other device (or software)." this places cable adapters and the like in the dongle category; USB drives are out, since they are completely self-contained; 3G/EVDO modems are in a grey area, since they enable a connection to remote hardware, but i would argue they are self-contained modems.

    not to derail the thread, but what exactly to call a portable USB storage device has always confounded me too. i still hear a lot of people call them 'jump drives', which i think is a trademark name for a now-marginal brand of such devices. 'thumb drive' seems equally silly, and not very descriptive (is it because it's the size of my thumb? because i have to use my thumb to plug it in? what?). 'USB stick' is descriptive, but sounds non-techy. so i usually just stick to 'USB drive', even though that could apply to other devices, like a full-size USB hard drive.

  20. DaveL said,

    June 3, 2009 @ 12:34 pm

    not to derail the thread, but what exactly to call a portable USB storage device has always confounded me too.

    "Memory stick" is pretty common, too.

  21. Dan Scherlis said,

    June 3, 2009 @ 12:36 pm

    My urgent question first: Do you think Scott Adams intended his columnist to resemble Walt Mossberg? (Presumably as an homage.)

    As for dongle, I wonder if the word inspired the German game-publishing venture Dongelware Verlag (founded c. 1990, and called "Dongelware Publishing" in the US).

    More recently, Wired published their list of top (proposed) "accessory-powered iPhone 3.0 applications — or, to use the term we coined, dongleware."

    And I think I recall referring to ur-dongles as "security dongles" in 1989. If so, the semantic drift would have been well underway by then.

  22. Ed Cormany said,

    June 3, 2009 @ 12:48 pm

    of course 'memory stick' is also a trademark name, which used to mean something completely different. although i think with the exception of the PSP, the Sony Memory Stick is going the way of the dodo, too.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Memory_stick
    (interesting that the disambiguation note at the top of that article shows the consensus on Wikipedia: the article for the devices we were talking about before is [[USB flash drive]])

  23. Mark F. said,

    June 3, 2009 @ 1:25 pm

    The Don Gall legend was created by an ad agency for a print ad; I think for a company that sold them.

  24. Peter Jackson said,

    June 3, 2009 @ 1:41 pm

    I was writing for MicroComputer Printout in 1982 (under a pen-name), but I don't think I was responsible for the origiinal OED citation. Which is a shame, as I always wanted to get one of those.

    At the time, the only security dongle I'd come across was the solid and non-dangling RS232 block that came with AutoCAD, packed in the box under its hardback manual. It was already called a dongle by the time I came to write my first review of the package.

  25. anon said,

    June 3, 2009 @ 1:58 pm

    The Hackers' Jargon File "dongle" entry is here; it traces the device to 1984, but does not give a firm date for the term.

  26. sjt said,

    June 3, 2009 @ 2:24 pm

    "USB key" is common (near standard, I think) in these parts.

  27. Bryn LaFollette said,

    June 3, 2009 @ 5:09 pm

    Although I didn't start working in an industry that actually used the security-related dongles (both Serial and USB) until after 2001, I had been aware of the term and the concept for some time before that. The security related ones that attached to serial ports looked just like the one in the page Ray Girvan links to above. I had already, however, had the term generallized in my ideolect to refer any small gagdet that plugged into a port on a computer. So, for example, my mid-90s laptop had no internal ethernet port, but had a PC Card ethernet adapter. But, the RJ45 plug on the ethernet wire didn't plug into the PC Card itself, but instead to an adapter which in turn plugged into the PC Card. I recall referring to the dangly adapter for the RJ45 plug as a "dongle", but did not consider the PC Card itself to be one. I think, though, that the meaning I've always interpreted as being standard for the admittedly heavily techie crowd I picked up the term from was basically any tiny thing that juts our from the computer onto whose port it attaches. The PC Card didn't count because it was almost entirely internal, and a flash card wouldn't be one for the same reason, but a USB Drive (and I've often referred to them as "thumb drives") does because it juts out from the body of the computer to which it attaches. And it was always the physical appearance, not the functionality, that determined whether a device fell into the set of "dongle".

    Incidentally, I recall a seemlingly related, but far more generic term that many of my techie acquaintances used to refer to pretty much anything (buttons, drives, UI elements, sandwiches, etc.), which was "dingus". I wonder if maybe "dongle" didn't arise in a similar fashion and then simply ended up having its semantic scope become heavily restricted in broader use, but then broaden again as more devices were perceived as meeting its physical description.

  28. James C. said,

    June 3, 2009 @ 5:42 pm

    In an interesting convergence, the E-Prime psychological experimentation software in our linguistics lab requires a USB flash drive containing some license files. Thus we have a dongle (security device sense) made with a dongle (USB flash drive sense). The mechanism allows us to have it installed on every machine, though only operating on those with a dongle plugged in. It is essentially a dongle-disk, since an ordinary USB flash drive is used and those have replaced floppy disks.

    I recall the use of “dongle” to refer to any random thing, along with “frob(nitz)” and “widget”. I never used it this way, but did hear it from gray haired COBOL programmers and others of that ilk.

  29. Nathan Myers said,

    June 3, 2009 @ 6:18 pm

    A connotation of "dongle" lacking for general use for USB storage keys is the annoyance factor. Dongles, traditionally, are always mentioned with visible annoyance. They add clutter, they interfere with rather than aid one's work, they are badly integrated into a system. A permanently-plugged USB wireless interface or storage key may count as a dongle because it clogs up a port. A wireless transceiver that must be unplugged from your laptop before you put it in the case, and then plugged back in when you take it out again, is a dongle. The short video adapter cables are dongles because they add clutter and because they indicate a poorly-integrated system. By contrast, a USB key you carry in your pocket, and only occasionally plug in, is not a dongle.

  30. dr pepper said,

    June 3, 2009 @ 6:26 pm

    Dongle: I only learned that word 2 years ago when i was trying to rebuild a used laptop (i've since learned better). My understanding was like that of Bryn LaFollette: a dongle is a short adapter cable that you plugged a standard sized cable into and then plugged in turn into a pcmcia card.

    As for those other things, i call them "jump drives", "flash drives", or "thumb drives", whatever happens to come out of my mouth at the time; it's a lot like "cellar" versus "basement".

  31. Richard said,

    June 3, 2009 @ 6:30 pm

    One thought to add, by way of explanation for what the OED entry does contain (as opposed to what is evidently missing now).

    What we ought to remember – and I suppose there is no particular reason why Mark or anyone else would always mention it – is the fact that the OED is very much a work in progress (perhaps now more than at any point since the completion of the first edition). Not all of the entries to be found in OED online, in fact only quite a small subset of them, have been revised or added to since the last printed edition: thankfully, every entry in OED online is clearly labelled with how recently the entry has been edited. The age of an entry is obviously going to have a significant bearing on its content (no more recent quotations or more recently developed meanings, researchers without access to the same range of electronically searchable resources, etc.), so it is often worth a mention, at least to help set the entry in a kind of context.

    The OED online entry for dongle is from the second edition (1989), so we should not be surprised at any meanings and usages that have arisen in the last twenty years not appearing in it. It's obviously a good candidate for revision, but then again so are tens of thousands of others (the editors are working both on systematic alphabetic revision, most recently publishing entries ran – reamy in Dec. 2008, and on 'out-of-sequence' entries drawn from across the alphabet, publishing a batch of these most recently in Mar. 2009).

    (Close followers of the history of OED will be quick to point out that in fact the online label 'Second Edition 1989' might be misleading too, by giving a false impression of how recent the entry is: all online entries are labelled as such by default if they have not been revised since 1989 and in many cases they were not changed for that edition. However, for the present word that is not a problem.)

    [(myl) I feel that the OED comes off quite well in this case, as indeed it usually does. It gives the meaning that is the only one many people (including Suzanne and me) knew, up to now; and its citation is two years earlier than date that the (usually authoritative) Jargon File gives for the origin of the device in question. No doubt the word's recent evolution will be covered before long -- updates are constantly being added to the online version, independent of any future paper editions. ]

  32. Ginger Yellow said,

    June 4, 2009 @ 9:20 am

    Like others in the comments, I'd never use dongle to mean memory stick/USB drive. I don't think I've heard it used in that sense either, though I'm not certain. I'd happily talk about a Bluetooth dongle or a 3G dongle, though.

    Incidentally, the first dongle I ever encountered was for some audio sampling software – it plugged into the Atari ST's MIDI port. It was massive – about the size of two cigarette cartons.

  33. Ginger Yellow said,

    June 4, 2009 @ 9:25 am

    Sorry: packs, not cartons.

  34. Sandy Ritchie said,

    June 4, 2009 @ 9:59 am

    I saw an advertisement on the London underground for a laptop which could connect wirelessly to the internet: the picture was of a (clearly wireless connector) UBS stick being thrown and the slogan was:

    "No more getting your dongle out"

    I'll leave you to surmise the pun, pretty racy for the tube.

    (Clue: the background of the picture was a pair of trousers)

  35. Mike Ball said,

    June 4, 2009 @ 6:07 pm

    I distinctly remember the connotation of "An annoying piece of junk strictly for the (imagined) benefit of a software company." I've never heard a USB flash drive called a dongle.

    "USB Key" seems strange to me too. It doesn't lock or unlock anything. Perhaps the form factor? I always just called them "flash drives".

  36. Nathan Myers said,

    June 4, 2009 @ 7:31 pm

    It's a "USB key" because it's on your key ring. Or, anyway, on mine.

  37. Jesse Sheidlower said,

    June 5, 2009 @ 10:34 am

    I just want to thank Richard for correctly pointing out that the OED's entry for this term hasn't been touched in twenty years, so cannot reasonably be blamed for missing any developments it has undergone since then.

    We are aware of the new sense, and will be incorporating it when possible, which, however, will probably not be in the very near future. (Though we are revising some entries out of alphabetical sequence, these tend to be large and important ones.) I note that we already have in our files a 1992 example in reference to an external modem; presumably, systematic searching at the time of revision will yield an even earlier example in reference to something other than a security device.

  38. Ginger Yellow said,

    June 5, 2009 @ 10:59 am

    "I note that we already have in our files a 1992 example in reference to an external modem; presumably, systematic searching at the time of revision will yield an even earlier example in reference to something other than a security device."

    I'm pretty sure I got my Replay Professional sound sampler dongle before 1992. If you can dig up a copy of the manual, that might use the word.

  39. Mark said,

    June 5, 2009 @ 4:34 pm

    It doesn't seem to be *anything* that can plug into USB. For example, a USB extension cord would probably not be called a "dongle" by most people (unless, of course, the cords was only an inch or two in length and it dangled from the USB port). iPods and rechargeable batteries plug in to the USB port, and nobody calls them "dongles".

    I think the concept of a dongle has more to do with it's size and tendency to stick out of the computer than any kind of functionality. An SD card performs the exact same functions as a USB drive, but since it slides flush into the computer's slot, nobody calls it a "dongle". Dongle seems to cromulently describe a class of external computer fixtures or adapters, about the size of a key fob, which do not have any better word to describe them.

  40. Alex said,

    June 6, 2009 @ 6:52 am

    The Sinclair QL, launched in 1984, was initially supplied with part of its operating system on an external ROM cartridge. This was commonly called the "kludge", but it was also referred to as a dongle. This was nothing to do with security, just a rush release of a not-quite-complete product.

    Here's an example from Your Spectrum magazine, issue 11, from February 1985:
    "Just recently, I've been hearing all sorts of rumours of users who've returned their QLs to be 'de-donglised', without enclosing the dongle itself. Sinclair Research don't seem to notice and lucky users receive an updated machine and get to keep the dongle."

    http://www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~jg27paw4/yr11/yr11_06.htm

  41. nbm said,

    June 6, 2009 @ 8:11 am

    Non-techie here. I think I vaguely connect the USB (flash/thumb) drive to "dongle" by its sometime ability to dangle from your keychain (as Nathan Myers points out). A kind of folk etymology, maybe, as I was ignorant of the specialized meanings.

  42. Paul Wilkins said,

    June 8, 2009 @ 7:04 pm

    As a student programmer in the 80's, I was under the impression that dongle was coined deliberately for the snicker value. We always got a laugh out of hearing the teacher say dongle. It sounds like dong. Which is a slang term for the male member. Which was funny sounding then. Still is.

  43. Franks said,

    June 10, 2009 @ 1:16 pm

    In my recollection, the dongle was in the early 90s used for securing the payment of licenses as mentioned above, by plugging in to an rs232 port.
    Later on, these devices were swapped by some software distributors by a USB-connectible with the same purpose.
    Maybe this has led to the convergence in meaning. Why invent a new name?
    Sappy detail: in the late 90s our USB-dongles at the IT department kept getting stolen, because the looked like a memory-device, which were quite pricey at the time and were much more known to the general public.

    Since Stephen Fry is not into computer science, but merely a dogmatic (and quite militant) disciple of the Gospel of Apple (who pushed the USB connection with the introduction of the i-mac), he should not be trusted as a reliable source on tech talk issues in general :O).

  44. Robina said,

    July 26, 2009 @ 7:05 am

    I was so pleased to have a term in the 80's for the 'clunky' annoying adapter plug that allowed me to network some ageing computers with differing multiples (?) of pin plugs….it was such a perfect word….I am bothered that it possibly refers to a particular 'something' now, viz 'a software protection device' sounding positively tidy! Bring back the nebulous dongle thingamyjig.

  45. wildcatherder said,

    October 7, 2009 @ 1:42 pm

    I belief that dongle specifically refers to a dead-end device that hangs from a computer port. A flash drive on one of those short USB extensions would be considered a dongle. A DVI adapter which is comprised of a short-cable segment with connectors on each end would be considered a dongle. Such an adapter as one-piece with no cable would not be a dongle.

    There is no alternate term for the security-device dongle; most other devices have specific names and people who use "dongle" for them, probably would do as well with "thingie".

    In general usage there has been significant meaning "creep" but the strict usage provides a "shibboleth" to reveal the technical expertise of the user.

    When personal computers become small enough to dangle from keychains, all such distinctions will become moot.

  46. T. Curtis said,

    June 20, 2010 @ 3:43 pm

    Never used dongle, though now I have Magic Jack, its hardware is called a dongle… So I wanted the etymology of dongle, I will give the Merriam its due:
    Main Entry: don·gle
    Pronunciation: \ˈdäŋ-gəl, ˈdȯŋ-\
    Function: noun
    Etymology: perhaps alteration of dangle
    Date: 1981
    : a small device that plugs into a computer and serves as an adapter or as a security measure to enable the use of certain software
    http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/dongle
    Seeing as how that's how it will end up in print, eventually by popular use, flash drives and what-not. Anyway, I did not read every entry on this page but for my two cents worth, I shall now use said word as my porn name… "Dip Dongle" , full name: "Dip – Dunk The Funk – Dongle."
    I have laid my two cents upon the table, gaze at them long and hard if you will.

  47. John Browne said,

    December 1, 2010 @ 6:27 pm

    Dongles per se go back to the original IBM PC as a simple means of copy-protection to prevent software piracy. The term hangs around today, to refer to very sophisticated smart-card-based devices most commonly seen as a USB stick. They can also be SD card-based, or Compact Flash, Micro SD, PCMCIA, or even on a chip attached to the mother board. The next generation of "dongles" will be hardly visible, as they will protrude less than 6 mm from the side of the PC.

    Modern "dongles" or "keys" as they are also called can be used to securely store software licenses to prevent unauthorized use; copy protect PDF, .wav, .avi, and other file types; ensure that a piece of software has not been tampered with (blocking malicious code insertion); and protect intellectual property (the software algorithms embedded in the code itself) from reverse engineering.

    Those of us in the industry generally dislike the term "dongle" but haven't come up with anything better!

  48. Russ Wood said,

    May 1, 2011 @ 9:37 am

    The first recorded use of the word dongle was in the influential BBC Radio Goon show.

    The Jet Propelled Guided NAAFI Serise 6 Episode 19 (Jan 1956) had Seagoon saying "Great larrups of dongle. He thinks he's a little tea-stained, crumpet-ridden idiot. "

    Note the NAAFI was the services cafeteria from WWII and slightly later.

    The Vanishing Room episode from December 1957 included the words "Flip my dongle and lower my grobblers".

    The word was also used by the Monty Python show more than a decade later.

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    March 22, 2013 @ 3:11 pm

    [...] to the University of Pennsylvania's language log, the earliest citation of the word dongle began appearing in [...]

  53. What The Heck Is A Dongle? | Digital Wealth said,

    March 22, 2013 @ 5:12 pm

    [...] to the University of Pennsylvania's language log, the earliest citation of the word dongle began appearing in [...]

  54. What The Heck Is A Dongle? | Elexonic.com | Breaking News said,

    March 22, 2013 @ 5:58 pm

    [...] to the University of Pennsylvania's language log, the earliest citation of the word dongle began appearing in [...]

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