Geek Trivia

In Computer Lingo, Small USB-Based Hardware Additions Are Called What?

What Was the First Networked Computer Game?
A USB Bluetooth dongle plugged into a laptop computer

Answer: Dongles

It’s fairly common for computer users the world over to expand the capability of their computers using USB-based expansions. Need to upgrade your Wi-Fi? You can plug and play your way to better speeds with a USB solution. Need to read SD cards on your laptop, but there’s no reader built in? There’s a USB-based solution for that too.

These small USB-based hardware expansions to your computer are known as dongles. The etymology of the term is unclear, but it has been suggested that it was a corruption of the word “dangle” since early computer dongles dangled from the PC ports they were attached to.

The original dongles were security-oriented: the dongle functioned as a hardware-based key for either the computer itself or software on it. While those type of dongles still exist, they’ve been greatly surpassed in use by general hardware dongles that cheaply expand the hardware capabilities of the user’s computer.