The Beginner’s Guide to Bitcoin Part 3: Bitcoin’s Pre-History and the Cypherpunks with Aaron van Wirdum – WBD184
Date: Thursday, 9th January
Project: Bitcoin Magazine
Role: Technical Editor
Welcome to the Beginner’s Guide to Bitcoin:
Bitcoin can be intimidating for beginners. The protocol is complicated, the community can be aggressive and unforgiving, silly mistakes can lose you money, and it is easy to succumb to altcoin marketing.
Bitcoin does though, offer you the opportunity to hold a new type of monetary asset, one which can’t be seized by the government and is censorship resistance and It has the potential to change the way the world.
The goal of What Bitcoin Did has always been about making things simple; there are no stupid questions, and the show is here to help beginners navigate this new world. To kick off 2020, we are launching a special series to help beginners understand Bitcoin. We will be looking at the basics from breaking down the protocol to explaining the economics and discussing the potential societal shift.
Beginners Guide Part 3 – Aaron van Wirdum on Bitcoin’s Pre-History and the Cypherpunks
Founded by Eric Hughes, Tim May and John Gilmore the cypherpunks were a group of hackers, privacy enthusiasts and crypto-anarchists. The group consisted of some of the most prominent cryptographers including Phil Zimmermann, Adam Back, Nick Szabo and Hal Finney.
The cypherpunks had its factions; some focussed on privacy tools, others on encryption and some on building decentralised monetary systems. It was on the cypherpunk mailing list and during their meetups that the building blocks of Bitcoin were born.
On October 31st 2008, Satoshi Nakamoto emailed the cypherpunk mailing list, telling them „I’ve been working on a new electronic cash system that’s fully peer-to-peer, with no trusted third party.“ In the 11 years that followed Bitcoin has proven to be the most successful attempt at creating a censorship-resistant and trust minimised digital currency.
Each previous attempt at creating a form of digital money had solved parts of the puzzle, but Satoshi was able to put these pieces together along with his innovations to create Bitcoin. The previous attempts included:
In the 1990’s eCash, headed by David Chaum, attempted to make online payments anonymous.
In 1997 Adam Back created HashCash, a proof-of-work system to reduce email spam and prevent denial of service attacks.
In 1998 Wei Dai proposed B-money to allow for an „anonymous, distributed electronic cash system“.
Around the same time, Nick Szabo proposed Bit Gold where unforgettable proof of work chains would share properties of gold: scarce, valuable and trust minimised but with the benefit of being easily transactable.
In 2004 Hal Finney built upon the idea of Hashcash and created Reusable Proofs of Work.
When Satoshi released the Bitcoin whitepaper, rather than a revolution, Bitcoin was an evolution of all that had come before it with Bitcoin being the most trust minimised, censorship-resistant and hardest currency that has ever existed.
In Part 3 of The Bitcoin Beginner’s Guide, I talk to Aaron van Wirdum, a journalist and Technical Editor at Bitcoin Magazine. Aaron explains the cypherpunk movement and the digital money projects which paved the way for Bitcoin.