This term was first used to describe a little hardware security device that plugged into a serial, parallel or USB port of the computer to authenticate the user access to a certain expensive high-end software application. When the program was run, it checked for the dongle and if it was not found, or verification failed, the program quit. These days, the term has also been used for laptop Ethernet card adapters to connect small PCMCIA NICs to a standard RJ-45 card. These days the term dongle is also being used for USB data cards with broadband capabilities.
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