Happy ninth birthday, Bitcoin! Well… first ninth birthday anyway. We’ll explain later. It’s been nine years since Satoshi Nakamoto revealed his invention to the public, posting the Bitcoin White Paper in a mailing list on November 1st, 2008. But hey, this is Bitcoin and any excuse for a party will do. How should we celebrate?
You know you’re a Bitcoiner when celebrating the anniversary of a technical white paper seems totally natural. But we’re in a new age now. Satoshi’s short, bare-bones document set in motion a chain of events that will transform the world economy.
2008 Kind of Sucked, Except for Bitcoin
There wasn’t much celebrating in late 2008 though. Lehman Brothers had crashed and burned just a month prior, marking the nadir of the ongoing global financial crisis (or apex, if demolishing the financial system is your game). The U.S. was late in the process of electing a replacement for the by-then-unloved George W. Bush. Predictions of economic gloom abounded.
In fact, 2008 was the International Year of the Potato. Really. In the second-most groundbreaking scientific event of the year, the Large Hadron Collider was switched on — its operators promptly broke it nine days later.
Then: with considerable understatement, a member of the cypherpunks mailing list called Satoshi Nakamoto announced he’d solved one of cryptography’s holy grails. It would allow a theoretical proof-of-work cryptocurrency to actually exist — and create useful digital money that couldn’t be controlled or manipulated by governments or central banks.
“I’ve been working on a new electronic cash system that’s fully peer-to-peer, with no trusted third party,” he wrote.
That’s Nice Satoshi, but It Won’t Work
The initial reaction was, surprise, dismissive (this is the internet after all).
“We very, very much need such a system, but the way I understand your proposal, it does not seem to scale to the required size,” replied James A. Donald. In hindsight, he probably had a point.
John Levine said Bitcoin would soon fall under the control of bad actors running “zombie farms” of computers. “This is the same reason that hashcash can’t work on today’s Internet — the good guys have vastly less computational firepower than the bad guys. I also have my doubts about other issues, but this one is the killer.”
It was legendary cryptographer Hal Finney who first came to Satoshi’s defense, with a long and detailed response saying Bitcoin had “potential value”:
“Bitcoin seems to be a very promising idea. I like the idea of basing security on the assumption that the CPU power of honest participants outweighs that of the attacker. It is a very modern notion that exploits the power of the long tail. When Wikipedia started I never thought it would work, but it has proven to be a great success for some of the same reasons.”
And the rest is history. Bitcoiners have since been Goxxed and Zhou-Tonged, jailed and double-taxed, banned by China and repeatedly rekt. Despite several ham-fisted campaigns by the mainstream media, Satoshi Nakamoto’s real identity (or identities) remains unknown.
While it all happened, BTC went from $0 to the $6,462 it is today on this “birthday”.
Bitcoin’s Other Birthdays and Anniversaries
Bitcoin actually has a number of birthdays and special anniversaries. There’s October 31st/November 1st, when Satoshi first released his concept in public. a few months later there’s January 3rd 2009, when “he” mined the first block (called the “Genesis Block”).
Technically, that day is Bitcoin’s actual birthday — before then, it was just a nine-page description and no coins “existed” yet. Like we said though, any excuse is good for a celebration. And it’s kind of cool that Bitcoin first appeared around Halloween.
Finney, who (supposedly) began communicating with Satoshi after his initial interest, received the first actual bitcoin transaction on January 14th 2009. Then there’s “Pizza Day”, when the first bitcoin transaction in return for actual goods or services happened. For the record, Laszlo Hanyecz paid 10,000 BTC for two pizzas on May 22nd 2010, ordered from overseas via a third party fan.
B-Money, Hashcash, Crypto-Anarchy and Science Fiction
Satoshi had already revealed his concept to fellow cryptographer Wei Dai in August 2008, and noted that Adam Back had seen it even before that.
His idea, he said, had similarities to proto-cryptocurrencies Back’s “hashcash” anti-spam tool and Dai’s “b-money“. Dai, along with Satoshi, appeared to be motivated by crypto-anarchy and a chance to take on the existing financial regime.
The basic concept of cryptocurrency goes back even further. Cryptographers and cypherpunks had mused about it since the early 1990s, and possibly even before. Neal Stephenson wrote a novel around it called “Cryptonomicon“, which was published in 1999 (the entire mining operations were based in a single cave in Malaysia, but the rest is surprisingly close to what we have now).
Anyway, none of that matters when it’s Halloween, and you’re already at a party wearing a costume. Why not celebrate Bitcoin too? And when you’re done, think about how you’ll mark Genesis Block Day. See you then!
What’s the best way to celebrate Bitcoin’s anniversaries? Feel free to share in the comments.
Images via Jon Southurst, The Guardian, Bitcoin Wiki, Hiveminer.com