Oct. 31 will mark the 10th birthday of one of the most promising, yet divisive technological advancements of the 21st century: Bitcoin.
In the aftermath of the global financial crisis, the first and most famous cryptocurrency emerged from an underground network of libertarian-leaning cypherpunks. Over the past decade its popularity has soared, but so has the number of its detractors. On the eve of its anniversary, here’s a look back at some of the glorious — and infamous — moments in the short life of the world’s most famous cryptocurrency.
And where it all began:
‘I’ve been working on a new electronic cash system that’s fully peer-to-peer, with no trusted third party’
Satoshi Nakamoto, Oct. 31, 2008, 06:10:00 PM
That was the first email in a series of messages sent by Satoshi Nakamoto, the presumed pseudonym adopted by the creator of Bitcoin, in a proposal for a payment system that is completely anonymous running on a decentralized distributed ledger, known as the blockchain.
Today, there are over 2,000 cryptocurrencies, most of which will fail and become worthless, according to Barry Silbert, chief executive officer of the Digital Currency Group, and there are already close to 1,000 dead coins, ones that either failed before launching or have ceased operation, according to a website that tracks such failures.
But the very first digital currency is still going strong, albeit with plenty of ups and downs. Once worth less than 1 cent, a single Bitcoin fetched nearly $20,000 in December 2017. Today, one Bitcoin
changes hands for about $6,500.
Bitcoin’s 10-year run
The early days
After the release of the Bitcoin white paper a decade ago, Satoshi started a chain of emails to a cryptography mailing list, largely made up of cypherpunks — those who promote increased financial privacy — looking to spread and champion computer encryption. The early emails were met with both enthusiasm and skepticism.
“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,” wrote computer programmer Hal Finney in an email exchange with the group.
Read: Here are all the early email exchanges between Satoshi and the cryptographers
A note that accompanied the copy of the Genesis Block gave rise to the notion that Bitcoin, in part, may have been a response to the financial crisis. “The Times 03/Jan/2009 Chancellor on brink of second bailout for banks,” the message said.
However, in an interview with MarketWatch, New York University professor David Yermack, debunked this theory, but did say that the timing definitely contributed to the hype around Bitcoin.