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Dr. Goodword
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Postby Dr. Goodword » Tue Jul 12, 2005 9:54 pm

• dongle •

Pronunciation: dông-gêl • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. A piece of hardware that must be plugged into a computer port in order for a copyrighted piece of software to operate on the computer. Its purpose is to protect the software from unauthorized use. 2. An adapter that fits into a computer port to provide a function or connection the computer is not fitted for.

Notes: Dongles in the original sense are still used for high-end (high-priced) engineering software where the temptation to "borrow" the program is the greatest. However, no doubt because of the sound similarity of this word and dangle, the meaning has already shifted to something that dangles from your laptop or desk computer. None of our tech guys have heard this new word used as a verb, so the only variant we know of at this point is the plural, dongles.

In Play: Putting this word in play sounds rather dangerous but here goes nothing: "Mick Stupp is off line today because he lost his dongle; he needs it for his Internet connection." Where can we go with this word from here? I don't think we will ever greet friends with, "How are your dongles dangling?" So, this word will probably never be used outside Nerdish: "I do love you, Amanda, but you make me feel more like a dongle than a major card on your motherboard." (Did you just moan or was that Shakespeare turning over in his grave?)

Word History: Today's Good Word has a very short history that left us no breadcrumbs to follow. It is easy to see that this word might have been an intentional variant pronunciation of dangle. However, as the definitions above make clear, the original dongles didn't dangle. In all probability, the word was made up, then gained wider currency as dongles did begin to dangle and the word made more sense to the general population. (We won't leave you dangling any longer: Patricia Castellanos was the person kind enough to suggest today's Good Word.)
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Postby Stargzer » Wed Jul 13, 2005 1:05 pm

Some more words on dongle:

An early 1992 advertisment from Rainbow Technologies (a manufacturer of dongles) claimed that the word derived from "Don Gall", the alleged inventor of the device. The company's receptionist however said that the story was a myth invented for the ad.

Alas, the advertisement seems to have disapeared into the ether when Rainbow Technologies merged with SafeNet.

Here's the patent granted for a "Compact transparent dongle device."

Wikipedia gives us:

. . . Claims that it was derived from the name "Don Gall" are an urban myth popularized by a 1992 advertisement for Rainbow Technologies, a dongle vendor.

Dongle as the name of a device was used well before 1980 within the telecoms industry to refer to BNC cable joiners of either sex (such as the RG58 cable used on 10 meg Ethernet).

WORDCRAFT was the first program to use a software protection dongle, in 1980. Its dongle was a simple passive device that supplied data to the pins of a cassette port in a pre-determined manner. That first dongle was invented and named by Graham Heggie in the UK.

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Postby Perry Lassiter » Mon Jul 23, 2012 6:54 pm

Found this browsing in the archives. I have lately begun to encounter the word more. I thought I read the deinition here, but I didn't join til '07, and the definition as I recall it referred only to things that dangled. I have a magnifying mouse that is wireless and connects through a device plugged into the computer. I suppose that's a form of dongle. Wonder why they didn't just make dangle a noun?

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Postby bamaboy56 » Tue Jul 24, 2012 11:37 pm

Good to see this word resurrected. I've seen it defined here before and we had a good discussion about it. I haven't been a member of this forum for very long so I know it's been fairly recent when I saw it. Glad to see it again!
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