Talk:Software protection dongle/Archive 1

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Archive 1 Archive 2


Since when is the word crack more professional than hack? -- Viajero 15:11, 27 Oct 2003 (UTC)

Origin of name, etc.

Because the word "dongle" sounds funny, it arouses curiosity about its origins, and I feel that the article should discuss this. So I added the note about it not being derived from any fictional eponymous "Don Gall." said the true origin was unknown, because I personally have not seen anything convincing.

I'm thinking of adding something more. Proposed wording:

The name 'dongle' is often perceived as slightly undignified, disrespectful, or indicating a distaste for the device. Vendors of dongles and dongle-protected software usually use more dignified terms in their written literature, such as "hardware key" or "security device." Nevertheless "dongle" is prevalent outside of such literature, and is used in informal parlance even by dongle vendors.

(My personal perception is that the word "dongle" is intentionally disrespectful, and that it is probably a portmanteau of "dangle" and "dong." Of course I have no evidence for this conjecture).

And should entries for "hardware key" and "security device" be created and redirected to "dongle?"

It seems to me that putting the article under the entry "dongle" without any further discussion represents a subtly non-neutral point of view. (One that I happen to agree with. Vehemently. Personally I believe dongles are the spawn of the Devil and should be consigned to the deepest reaches of perdition).


Dpbsmith 18:08, 27 Oct 2003 (UTC)

I don't know the origin of the name, but it's been called a dongle since the 70s at least. I think your perception of it being a play on "dangle" and "dong" are probably not far off, programmer types being the people they are ;-) I imagine the very earliest dongles were probably jury-rigged affairs that consisted of a bit of veroboard hanging out of the back of an RS-232 or parallel port plug on the end of a bunch of wires; they would definitely dangle! Later productionised versions probably looked a lot neater, being not much bigger than an inline port gender-changer. Modern USB dongles have gone back to dangling though - they sometimes have a short flexible lead, though other types are rigid and look like USB key memories. As for the redirect, I'd support "hardware key", but not "security device" - it's too general. GRAHAMUK 23:31, 27 Oct 2003 (UTC)


I'm not sure that enumerating examples of software types that have dongles helps much - I can think of a number of others I happen to know use dongles, but by listing them makes it seem as if these are exclusively using dongles, whereas the reality is that any software could use a dongle, if its vendors so chose. GRAHAMUK 01:35, 28 Oct 2003 (UTC)

I sorta like the enumeration... That wasn't my addition, but I think it's fairly appropriate. I see your point, but concrete examples do help to clarify the way in which dongles are typically used. The choice of examples in a case like this is always arbitrary. But I that giving a few examples is more helpful that just saying "expensive programs" or "low-volume programs used by professionals" or whatever. In explaining what gasoline is used for, it's helpful to say that it is typically used in motor vehicles and aircraft, even though it potentially has many other uses.... Just my $0.02 Dpbsmith 03:21, 28 Oct 2003 (UTC)


The word "dongle," as a word for something unnamed (akin to "doodad" or "whatchamacallit") has been used since the 1970s.

Hmmm, is there any evidence for this? I think the term exists solely to refer to the software protection device, not just any old unnamed thingy. Now, the jargon file reference cited says that the first dongle appeared in 1984. I dispute this - I can distinctly recall the term being used in connection to some mainframe stuff that I saw being done at ICL in about 1978 - or was it Honeywell, I'm not sure now. They were definitely talking about it in reference to a device used to "protect" software. In was a passive device that hooked up a parallel port in such a way that if you wrote a value to it, it would readback a different value - that was considered adequate protection back in those innocent days! Perhaps the term originated as some internal name but didn't reach a wider public until the 80s - who knows? GRAHAMUK 05:46, 28 Oct 2003 (UTC)

Going back to my school years in Australia (late 60s, early 70s) the term "dongle" was local slang for the male appendage. Given the above description of early computer dongles I suggest an easy parallel could be drawn.  ;-) Gaz 10:44, 28 Oct 2003 (UTC)
I had wondered about your addition myself. As I noted in above, I've always perceived "dongle" to be a portmanteau of "dong" (slang in the U. S. for the male appendage) and "dangle." I've never heard it used in the generic sense of "watchamacallit" (which is a good, common, familiar U.S. colloquialism, synonymous with "thingamabob.").
I just checked Wentworth and Flexner's Dictionary of American Slang and it indeed has a short entry, "dong [taboo] n. The penis" but no entry for "dongle."
If we have a reasonably good idea where the word came from, we should say so, but I don't think we should put in something euphemistic and false. If "dongle" meant "watchamacallit" in sixties Australia, fine. If it meant "penis" in sixties Australia, we should not say that it meant "watchamacallit" (unless, of course, watchamacallit clearly means penis, which it doesn't—not to me, anyway. Although perhaps all these "watchamacallits" and "thingamabobs" have a double meaning?
Does a mention of the Wentworth and Flexner definition of "dong" belong in this article?
Dpbsmith 11:02, 28 Oct 2003 (UTC)
No, I think the reference is not clear enough to put anything in the main page. I just checked the Macquarie Dictionary (THE Aussie reference) and it too includes "dong" as slang for penis. It also contains "donger" to mean the same thing. So maybe, "dongle" was just local to where I grew up. I'll leave this edit with a choice piece of Aussie slang that I am sure would roll off the tongue of Croc Dundee... " dry as a dead dingo's donger!!" Gaz 11:20, 28 Oct 2003 (UTC)
I can recall, from back in the '70s, "dongles" was a slang term referring to testicles as in getting kicked in the "dongle box". My guess is its origins are a humorous mispronunciation of "dangles" - iSAWaUFO —Preceding unsigned comment added by ISAWaUFO (talkcontribs) 18:51, 28 January 2010 (UTC)
In the late 1970s, during my first ever paid programming job, I worked at a software house specialising in accounting software for the Commodore PET. At the time, the Wordcraft wordprocessor was protected by a hardware key that was _very definitely_ referred to as a 'dongle'. In the culture of the time, the source for the name was that Wordcraft's author used the word as a generic thingummy/cadigan, and the name stuck. COMPILERBITCH 00:04, 14 December 2004 (UCT)


The word 'Bongle' actually seems to be the name of a specific commercial product. To my personal knowledge, it's not (yet?) in general use as a generic term. Does it really belong in Wikipedia? If so, it should be identified as a product of Hide & Seek Technologies. This company seems to have no website and I'm not clear on whether or not "Bongle" is trademarked.

Experienced Wikipedians, how should this be handled?

I sort of think it (and the page that describes it) should be removed in a couple of weeks unless someone supplies a positive justification for including it, but I don't know the normal channels for making or implementing such a decision.

Dpbsmith 13:40, 29 Oct 2003 (UTC)

I've taken "bongle" out - it appears to be using a CD-ROM, customised per copy of the application, as a dongle. The gimmick is that they claim the CD cannot be copied, but nevertheless works just fine in any random CD-ROM drive. Looking around the Web, I can see no information that suggests this thing works or even exists yet! (See [1] [2] and a few other copies of the same press release.) If we really want this bit included, it should only be as part of a list of dongle vendors. Assuming someone does vend the thing. - David Gerard 20:03, Feb 14, 2004 (UTC)

Old-school definition vs. modern usage

Aren't adapters called dongles too? Such as from a compound or miniature port on a cellphone or notebook computer to a full-size plug or socket?   – radiojon 00:33, 2003 Dec 2 (UTC)

Yep. News flash old-timers: Just because a generic word was adopted by the security access/software protection industry, said industry doesn't "own" the word. For some reason the authors of this page have mostly ignored other uses for the term.
Even the Jargon File clearly indicates that the use of Dongle, as "invented" by Heggie (see above) is OBSOLETE.
See also definition 3 of the Jargon file [3]
"3. An adaptor cable mating a special edge-type connector on a PCMCIA or on-board Ethernet card to a standard 8p8c Ethernet jack. This usage seems to have surfaced in 1999 and is now dominant. Laptop owners curse these things because they're notoriously easy to lose and the vendors commonly charge extortionate prices for replacements."
[This comment refers to the March 25 2005 version of this article.]
Fact is that there are more general laptop users than there are users of Hardware-based secured application access, so the definition of "dongles" as "things that plug into my laptop" is just more widely known and used.
We can keep this wikipedia definition, but it should probably be changed to the past-tense.... fact is, as USB Keys replace the old serial plug-ins, the use of dongle for just application-control hardware will probably pass into history... -- Liberty 03:12, 2 April 2005 (UTC)

Origin of USE of name DONGLE [for application security hardware]

As the Inventor and Namer of the Dongle, I guess I should set the record straight; after all, it HAS been 25 years, and perhaps I should have mentioned this sooner. However, it didn't seem important at the time . . .

This is the definitive statement on the matter; I can produce accounting records showing the first ever documented sale of Dongles, and Press Articles describing the launch. I write purely in the interests of veracity - after 25 years, I clearly have no personal angle . . .

There is some duplication of this text elsewhere on the site, (and some corroborating notes below by COMPILERBITCH), but this is how it went:

The concept originated in 1979 around the then-world-leading computer, the Commodore 'PET'. The Dongle attached to the Cassette Recorder port (which was driven by a serial comms chip). The code to access it was encrypted within the application package being protected, WORDCRAFT by Peter Dowson, which was then the most comprehensive Word Processor.

The expression 'dongle' is not an original name, but was used well before that time within the telecomms industry to refer to BNC cable joiners of either sex, (like the RG58 cable used on 10 meg Ethernet). After a little research, I now feel that this may have been a localised use of a word which may, in fact, have originated from the dawn of pre-history !

However: coming from a Telecomms background, the two-cubic-inch resin-potted first generation of Software Protection Devices I called Dongles, as there was no other suitable term to hand on the day. Exciting, isn't it ?

The device increased WORDCRAFT sales eight-fold overnight, which illustrated the background level of plagiarism even in those days. It made millionaires of the Software authors, and their Distributor, Dataview Ltd. based in Colchester, UK, then went on to produce a derivative Dongle which became their core business.

Graham Heggie UK Feb. 2005

—Preceding unsigned comment added by February 2005 (talkcontribs) 23:56, 7

I would like to support Graham Heggie's claim because I was present in his kitchen when he came up with the idea and the name!
Pete Dowson and I were working on the Wordcraft word processor for the Commodore PET (Pete did the hard stuff, I contributed ideas, thousands of hours of testing(!), documentation and marketing) and we visited Graham in his kitchen in Coventry where he had a Veroboard hanging off the back of a PET tape port. A brilliant idea but very simple - a 74LS165 8 bit shift register with various lines tied to give 255 possible combinations. We needed a name, we tossed a few around, the device was "dangling", and Graham said dongle - that's it. Graham then supplied us with thousands of dongles in potting boxes with suitable tape port connectors. He and we went on to produce versions for serial and parallel ports. Graham, nor Wordcraft, patented the idea - so it did NOT make us millionaires - sad to say!
One group of individuals in Derbyshire (who shall remain nameless to protect the guilty - and they know who they are) tried to rip us off with a device that had switches on all lines so trial and error would allow people to use their device to illegally operate our software. We persuaded them to stop - and they did.
As of July, 2007, Wordcraft, the company, is still very active in the field of software for multifunctional peripherals: fax/scan/copy/print/make-the-tea etc.
Mike Lake, Derbyshire, England, July, 2007
—Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs) 12:27, 16 July 2007
It is great to have historical info on use of word, but note that it's just historical now. A more current definition, since the word was adopted for Ethernet adapters for laptops, would be:
"Once used to refer to a hardware device required for a specific software program, but now more generally used to mean any funny-looking device attached to a computer using a cable." See also 'old-school vs modern', below. - User:Liberty_Miller 03:56, 2 April 2005 (UTC)

Misc comments

Moving "Despite being hardware, dongles are not a complete solution to the trusted client problem." from the Main definition section to "See also". This statement does not seem to add anything to the essential definition of what a dongle is/was, and borders on opinion. The author has already elaborated on this point in the "Implementation problems" section. Thanks, -- Liberty 23:41, 18 April 2005 (UTC)

Uncorroborated statements

I've removed the sentences in the article saying that the dongle "made millionaires" of the software authors, and that the device increased sales "eight-fold overnight", as these statements are not sourced and are directly contradicted by the quote later in the article. Enchanter 10:23, July 31, 2005 (UTC)

Dongles as hardware keys versus as things that dangle

Despite remarks above in Talk implying that its use to mean "hardware key" is obsolete, this is still a current meaning. Hardware keys are almost always called "dongles," although there are things that are called dongles now that are not hardware keys.

AHD4 gives only one meaning for "dongle:" "A hardware device that serves as copy protection for certain software by rendering the software inoperable when the device is not plugged into a printer port." Dpbsmith (talk) 11:28, 31 July 2005 (UTC)

Name of the screws?

Does anyone know the specific name of the 'screws' with which e.g. serial port dongles are screwed to the computer? Flyingbird 21:46, 17 November 2005 (UTC)

Software protection dongles with other dongles

There're must be division into software protection dongles and other dongles. --Yonkie 03:56, 5 May 2006 (UTC)

Original research?

According to a contributor claiming to be "Paul Handover, founder and managing director of Dataview Ltd.:

Although I can't remember the precise date, I well remember the conversation that I was having with Graham Heggie when he used the term 'dongle' and my immediate response that we couldn't use it as a term as it seemed vaguely vulgar. But we did and it became the generic term for a software protection key. In fact our sales of Wordcraft didn't rise anything like "eight-fold" much more like a steady doubling of sales over about a 6 month period. The biggest rise in sales were from larger organisations who had only purchased a single copy of Wordcraft. One large organisation in East Anglia, a single user of Wordcraft, turned out to have the product installed on over 200 Commodore PCs.

The other small amendment is that it didn't "make millionaires" of those involved. Certainly Peter Dowson, the author of Wordcraft, made a very good living out of the sales of Wordcraft for a number of years. But this was much more down to his commitment to a constant development of Wordcraft than the impact of the dongle.

Finally, the idea of the 'dongle' came out of a visit that I had made to our Canadian distributors, Canadian Micro Distributors (just slightly unsure if I recall the name correctly), in Milton, Ontario. They had developed a software key in conjunction with their local university and I saw this cube-like device stuck on the cassette port on the back of the Commodore. They avoided my questions about what it was doing but I guessed it was a software key. Upon my return to the UK, I rang Graham and explained what I had seen. It took him only a few days to deduce what it was doing and make a prototype. So, ultimately, we have our Canadian friends to thank for the idea of the Dongle.

Wikipedia is a secondary, not a primary source. If no one can provide a proper primary source for this quote, I will delete it.--Susurrus 04:35, 28 June 2006 (UTC)

'Correct' Term

FWIW, at 3M we were instructed to use the term 'software enabling device' when speaking to clients. In-house, they were, of course, 'dongles'.

Anecdote: The dongles for the 9x8 series microfilm card duplicators were potted in resin, and since they were non-repairable, the raw board wasn't labeled. One capacitor on the board was polarized, and they were installed with random orientations by Wickes & Wilson. I saw one machine SPEW ammonia, one stream-feed cards, another produce a small column of smoke. A morning to remember! LorenzoB 21:49, 11 August 2007 (UTC)

Wrong picture caption

The dongles shown in the picture plugged into the parallel port are not copy protection devices as the caption claims. They are devices which enable ( authorize, activate ) the software to be used on the computer which the dongle is plugged into. They do nothing in relation to copying the software. Eregli bob 06:20, 6 October 2007 (UTC)

The problem is not with the caption; the problem is that "copy protection" is a misnomer (just as hamburgers are not made from ham). Since the 1980's computer software developers have conceded that it is impossible to prevent people from copying software (although music and video companies still try). Instead they either require some kind of authorization (a physical device or password or Internet registration) or use encryption. The term "copy protection" is still acceptable, even though it is misleading. Greensburger 15:39, 6 October 2007 (UTC)

Game consoles

I think there should be a modern day example under game consoles. Like how guitar hero 3 for the ps3 uses a usb dongle to connect; there's also others but that is a good example —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 05:58, 6 January 2008 (UTC)

Merge with Dongle (disambiguation)

Dongle (disambiguation) is not a proper disambiguation page. It is not even close to being formatted as outlined in WP:MOSDAB; there is a reference section, an image, and no links to other articles that could be called "dongle". The information on the 'disambiguation page' is simply an extention of how the word has been extended from its normal use, and should constitute a section of the main Dongle page.

Neelix (talk) 13:39, 31 January 2008 (UTC)

Agree. The main dongle page says it all, and is hence sufficient. HiramShadraski (talk) 13:20, 15 February 2008 (UTC)


I came over to copyedit this page from the Wikipedia "tasks you can do to be helpful" page, without realizing how active it was. I tried in my edits not to change any meanings, and not to alter any opinions (since I myself have no opinions on dongles). But perhaps I should have described in more detail what I did. I hope you will find my version acceptable, though--I'm new here! One thing to check: I assume that the author was referring to a single "two-cubic-inch" device, rather than two "cubic-inch" devices, but the phrasing was vague, so if I'm wrong, please fix it. Thanks. DiderotWasRight (talk) 09:08, 24 March 2008 (UTC)

Removed weasel tag

Hi, I removed the {{Weasel|date=May 2008}} tag, because I could not find exactly where the weasel sentence is. Maybe it was fixed since then. If you feel that there are still weasel words constructions, please use {{weasel}} tag where you spot them. That will help a lot in fixing/discussing the problem. Thanks. --HappyInGeneral (talk) 23:39, 29 October 2009 (UTC)

Fake etymology

This revert was inappropriate. A random advertisement making an outlandish claim is not notable enough to warrant inclusion in the history section unless it was covered by reliable secondary sources. In this case, the only secondary source which notes it is the Jargon File, which is notoriously unreliable. It should be removed again as trivia. Chris Cunningham (not at work) - talk 10:53, 16 July 2010 (UTC)

Negative POV

There seems to be some negative POV regarding dongles in this article. It's stated that dongles are used to "lock-in" clients and charge more. That really can't be proven and is simply the way you see it.

The exact same thing could be said about alot of products and services. Car companies for instance often produce new cars with odd tire sizes and make deals with tire manufacturers so that you sometimes only have 1 or 2 options instead of several that you would normally have. You have no choice of wireless coverage in most areas, while there are different companies often times the service is worse with other companies because of "locked-in" areas.

However with all of this said, such articles aren't published with a POV.Woods01 (talk) 07:02, 27 July 2010 (UTC)

Ok - what is the point of a Dongle then - in the way that you see it? a_man_alone (talk) 07:53, 27 July 2010 (UTC)
It could equally be claimed that the article is promoting the use of dongles for license enforcement, since it uncritically parrots the claims of the vendors. In practice dongles used for license enforcement are not nearly as transparrent as the vendors would have us believe, and the user has little recourse when they fail. Shmuel (Seymour J.) Metz Username:Chatul (talk) 20:13, 22 September 2010 (UTC)

Title more general than contents

Either the article should be moved to a more specific title or the contents should be broadened. The term dongle is not just used for a license-enforcement device, it is also used for, e.g., serial port attachments on a laptop. See, e.g., PC Card. Shmuel (Seymour J.) Metz Username:Chatul (talk) 18:19, 22 September 2010 (UTC)

Requested move

The following discussion is an archived discussion of a requested move. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on the talk page. No further edits should be made to this section.

The result of the move request was: page moved per unanimous discussion. ErikHaugen (talk) 00:27, 18 October 2010 (UTC)

DongleSoftware protection dongle — Lack of generality - the {{Dablink}} excludes other meanings Shmuel (Seymour J.) Metz Username:Chatul (talk) 12:45, 8 October 2010 (UTC)


Feel free to state your position on the renaming proposal by beginning a new line in this section with *'''Support''' or *'''Oppose''', then sign your comment with ~~~~. Since polling is not a substitute for discussion, please explain your reasons, taking into account Wikipedia's policy on article titles.
  • Support there's also the dongles that came with modem and network cards for laptop computers on PCMCIA cards that were pretty common previously, etc. (talk) 04:43, 9 October 2010 (UTC)


I treated this as potentially controversial because there may be editors willing to expand the article rather than just renaming it. The {{Dablink}} template at the beginning of the article has Wikilinks to non-security usages of dongle. Shmuel (Seymour J.) Metz Username:Chatul (talk) 12:49, 8 October 2010 (UTC)
The above discussion is preserved as an archive of a requested move. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on this talk page. No further edits should be made to this section.


I think the search "dongle" should direct to a disambiguation page instead of straight here. This is hardly the main kind of "dongle" so it doesn't seem right to me that everyone should be taken straight here.

Hanse00 (talk) 17:24, 11 April 2012 (UTC)

I agree that the "dongle" redirect is not the most appropriate. What are your suggestions for a disambiguation page? —danhash (talk) 14:34, 13 April 2012 (UTC)

OED has the earliest citation wrong

A Google Books search seems to demonstrate that at least the October, 1981 issue of New Scientist provides an earlier reference to "dongle" in the appropriate context. Link to Google Books search result showing the reference — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 19:28, 10 October 2012 (UTC)


So not a term to fire someone over? Got it. (talk) 19:57, 24 March 2013 (UTC)

Other types of dongles

The Software protection dongle article should mention that there are other types of dongles, e.g., a PCMCIA serial port on a laptop, but that they are out of scope for the article. I've added a foornote to the article, but I believe that there is a template specifically for limiting the scope in the absence of articles for other uses. Shmuel (Seymour J.) Metz Username:Chatul (talk) 14:24, 15 August 2013 (UTC)

Don Gall

The dongle is named after Don Gall who was a software engineer at DEC where he invented the dongle. DEC basically stole his idea, so he left DEC and worked with Paul Allen for a little while before Allen helped start up Microsoft. Don Gall, sadly, was killed in a boating accident in the late '90s. Just some trivia:

Mr. Gall collected antique oil cans, and had a collection of something like 4000+ cans stacked in two garages at his house in Maryland. (talk) 03:16, 25 October 2015 (UTC)