The first mention of a product called bitcoin was in August 2008 when two programmers using the names Satoshi Nakamoto and Martti Malmi registered a new domain, bitcoin.org. In October of the same year, Nakamoto released a document, called a white paper, entitled “Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System.” In the preceding months, Nakamoto and a group of volunteer researchers had proposed different versions of the concept in forums and email threads. It was in 2008 that it all came together.
Source: Satoshi Nakamoto
This paper laid out principles of Bitcoin, an electronic payment system that would eliminate the need for any central authority while ensuring secure, verifiable transactions. In short, the document described a new form of currency, one that allowed for trustless payments on the web – that is, they require a minimal amount or even no trust between parties.
In other words, the system allowed two users who didn’t know or trust each other to exchange money in the same way they could pass cash back and forth. The system also allowed users to confirm messages, transactions and data using a tool called public key encryption, eliminating any need to disclose their identities to transaction partners or third parties. Pseudonymity, in this case, was a byproduct but not a primary feature.
In January 2009, the first bitcoin currency transaction occurred between two computers owned by Nakamoto and the late Hal Finney, a developer and an early cryptocurrency enthusiast.
To this day, no one knows who Satoshi Nakamoto really is. Even a man named Dorian Nakamoto was erroneously named as Bitcoin’s creator by a Newsweek reporter in 2014.
In the end, however, because of the decentralized nature of the platform, it is not considered important to know who Satoshi Nakamoto is.
Bitcoin Up Close
So you’ve learned the basics of bitcoin, now you’re excited about its potential and want to buy some. But how?
Satoshi Nakamoto originally created Bitcoin as an alternative, decentralized payment method. Unlike international bank transfers, it was low-cost and almost instantaneous.
An added advantage for merchants (less so for users) was that it was irreversible, removing the threat of expensive charge-backs. In return, consumers benefit from a wider selection of merchants both domestic and international without worrying about exchange fees. Moreover, the details of their transactions are encrypted which protects their personal data.
The improvement in domestic payment methods and the rapid development of alternative (non-cryptocurrency) forms of international transfers, however, has reduced bitcoin’s advantage in this area, especially given its increasing fees and frequent network bottlenecks.
Before holding any bitcoin, you need somewhere to store it. Just like in the physical world, you store your bitcoin in a wallet.
Similar to a bank account number, your wallet comes with a wallet address that shows up in a ledger search and is shared with others so you can make transactions. This address, which is a shorter, more usable version of your public key, consists of between 26 and 35 random alphanumeric characters, something like 1A1zP1eP5QGefi2DMPTfTL5SLmv7DivfNa. Keep in mind that every letter and number in that address is important. Before sending any bitcoin to your wallet, double-check the entire address, character by character.
Also tied to your wallet address is one or more private keys, which as the name suggests should not be shared with anyone. Keys are used to verify you own the aforementioned public key, and to sign off on transactions. Some wallets create a secure seed phrase, a set of words that will allow you to unlock your wallet if you lose your keys. Print this phrase out and keep it in a safe place.