As a short-range, low-power, wireless-communication system, Bluetooth has found its place — primarily connecting headsets to cellular phones.
But since its difficult beginnings, Bluetooth protocols have improved, making it ideal for connecting all sorts of small devices.
The Bluetooth protocol advances to Version 4.0
According to the Bluetooth Technology Fast Facts website, Bluetooth was invented in 1994 by engineers at Ericsson, a Swedish cell phone company. But the 1.0 specification wasn’t released until 1999, after several electronics companies agreed to use the protocol for direct, short-range (no more than 30 feet), device-to-device, voice and data communications.
Now, 18 years later, it boasts improved speed and better security and can reach up to 300 feet. It’s powerful enough to handle streaming music and HD video. Version 4.0 (more info) was released in 2010 and added, among other things, support for higher-performance and lower-power applications.
Simple USB adapters add Bluetooth to PCs
I hop between two laptops, one with Windows 7 and another with Windows XP. Unfortunately, the XP system doesn’t support Bluetooth (nor do most Windows desktop systems). That problem is easily remedied with an inexpensive USB/Bluetooth adapter.
A quick search of the Web will bring up legions of USB-based, Bluetooth dongles — most of them based on outdated but still viable Bluetooth 2.0 and 2.1. You’ll see ridiculously low prices for these devices; some cost less than a buck.
My advice is to skip them. For less than U.S. $20, you can find tiny, state-of-the-art Bluetooth 4.0 adapters such as models from IOGEAR (site) or Medialink (site). They are all backward-compatible with previous Bluetooth protocols, and they’re firmware-upgradable to the forthcoming Bluetooth versions.