Happy 10th Birthday, Bitcoin!! 7 3081

On January 3rd, 2009, block number zero produced the first 50 bitcoins. They were mined by none other than the mysterious Satoshi Nakamoto. Thus was born the phenomenon of the decade. And on January 8th, ten years ago today, bitcoin became a public network when Nakamoto released bitcoin version 0.1.

Nakamoto announced the release via the Metzdowd cryptography mailing list, calling bitcoin “a new electronic cash system that uses a peer-to-peer network to prevent double-spending.”

Nakamoto’s description of the software that would revolutionize technology is sparing and to the point. “It’s completely decentralized with no server or central authority,” the succinct announcement goes on. “Windows only for now.  Open source C++ code is included.” It describes the proof of work as “ridiculously easy”.

It follows with a brief description of how transactions work, how many coins will be released and how they can expect to split every 4 years, along with the caveats that the software was still “alpha and experimental,” offering “no guarantees”. It’s signed with no letter closing, simply:

“Satoshi Nakamoto”

Bitcoin, This Is Your Life

My what a ten years it has been. Just to recap:

On January 12th, 2009, programmer Hal Finney, who had downloaded the new bitcoin software immediately, received ten bitcoins from Nakamoto. This was the first ever bitcoin transaction. Over a year later in May 2010, programmer Laszlo Hanyecz received 10,000 bitcoins in exchange for two Papa John’s pizzas, initiating the first real-world bitcoin purchase and thereby creating the pizza index.

Bitcoin simmered until 2017, when it’s value jolted from $900 to over $19,000, and bitcoin became a household name. Over the past year, the original crypto has settled to a more modest $4,000 valuation, and stirred up a lot of public din in its wake.

Where Were You on January 9th, 2009?

So where were you on the day of Nakamoto’s announcement? Probably on your couch watching DVDs of Pineapple Express and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia seasons 1 through 3, or laughing at Dr. Horrible’s Singalong Blog on your iPhone 2.

It was a simpler time. Wired was calling Google Earth the number one app on the fancy new iPhone app store. Competition was fierce with Windows 7 in beta. Facebook had recently dropped the “is” from status updates, and a fun app called Twitter (formerly “Twttr”) had just introduced a feature called Trending Topics.

Trending Topics

David Bowie was celebrating one of his eight final birthdays, while Michael Jackson and Patrick Swayze were enjoying their last few months among us mortals. Only days later, pilots Chesley Sullenberger and Jeffrey Skiles made aviation history by skillfully crash landing US Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson River, saving everyone on board.

A burgeoning class of ennui soaked fashionistas, deemed “hipsters,” were described in Time Magazine as “smug, full of contradictions and, ultimately, the dead end of Western civilization,” a vermin who “manage to attract a loathing unique in its intensity.” They went on with this colorful character sketch:

“Hipsters are the friends who sneer when you cop to liking Coldplay. They’re the people who wear t-shirts silk-screened with quotes from movies you’ve never heard of and the only ones in America who still think Pabst Blue Ribbon is a good beer. They sport cowboy hats and berets and think Kanye West stole their sunglasses. Everything about them is exactingly constructed to give off the vibe that they just don’t care.”

Time Magazine, 2009

Is it time for any of that to come back into style yet? Maybe give it a few more years. We need a break.

Williamsburg was gentrifying and Portland was still America’s best kept secret. The streets were flooded with fixed gear bikes and the sounds of Grizzly Bear, Real Estate, Kings of Convenience, and TV on the Radio.

Animal Collective’s Merriweather Post Pavilion was just a few days old, and Fever Ray’s self titled was about to drop. The world was listening to Lady Gaga, whose single “Just Dance” hit number one on Billboard’s top 100, and Taylor Swift’s Fearless, which was the top selling album.

That same month, box offices favored the cuddly Marley & Me, while The Dark Knight swept the people’s choice awards. Audiences were still getting wowed by Avatar, paying a lot to be disappointed by Mall Cop, and getting hyped about the upcoming Watchmen movie.

Meanwhile in Washington DC, a president with a multisyllabic vocabulary was about to be inaugurated (a rarity in the 21st century, we would find out), and his kids were playing with a Wii they got for Christmas.

Here’s To Another Decade Ahead

What a time it was, the dawn of 2009. And most of us, at least for a few more years, had never heard about blockchain, cryptocurrencies, or bitcoin.

And now here we are.

So, dear reader, here’s to ten more years of crashes, booms, bubble scares, hype, derision, libertarian fanboys, pizza and moon lambos. Happy tenth birthday, bitcoin!!1

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I grew up in the Silicon valley under the technological mentorship of Steve Wozniak. I'm a proud member of the Choctaw Nation, I've lived, worked and traveled all over the world, and I now write in the Pacific Northwest.

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Freelance Terrorist Carried Out Hundreds of Bomb Threats in Exchange For Bitcoin 45 8478

An American-Israeli teen is sentenced to a decade in prison after a Tel Aviv court convicted him for a series of fake bomb threats he carried out in exchange for Bitcoin.

The 19 year old began making threats professionally at the age of 16. He is convicted only for crimes committed while over the age of 18. These include making false threats and reports, extortion, money laundering, and conspiracy to commit a crime.

While the Israeli courts withheld the defendant’s identity because some of his alleged crimes occurred while he was a minor, the Guardian identified him as Michael Kadar at the time of his arrest. He was originally indicted for over 2,000 bomb threats, carried out between 2015 and 2017.

Kadar Targeted Children and Jewish Community Centers

The targets of Kadar’s threats included Jewish community centers, the Israeli Embassy in Washington DC, elementary schools, shopping centers, hospitals, law enforcement agencies, airports and airlines.

A threat to an El-Al flight resulted in the deployment of fighter jets for an escorted emergency landing; another threat to a Canadian airport left six people injured during emergency disembarkment; a Virgin flight dumped eight tons of fuel before landing because of a threat; and another threat went to a plane carrying the Boston Celtics.

Kadar also targeted Republican Delaware state senator Ernesto Lopez, who he threatened with blackmail and the murder of his daughter. After Lopez ignored the demands, Kadar ordered drugs to have sent to Lopez’s residence.

Dealing Terror From Mom and Dad’s Apartment

His reign of terror operated from his parent’s fifth floor apartment near the beach in a posh neighborhood in Ashkelon, about 30 miles south of Tel Aviv. But his threats landed in over a dozen countries, including Ireland, New Zealand, Germany, Denmark, Great Britain, Belgium, Australia, Norway, Argentina, Israel, the United States, and Canada.

“One can easily imagine the terror, the fear and the horror that gripped the airplane passengers who were forced to make an emergency landing, some of whom were injured while evacuating the plane,” read the verdict by judge Zvi Gurfinkel, “and the terrified panic caused when there was a need to evacuate pupils from schools because of fake bomb threats.”

The Judge also divulged Kadar’s fees for his services: $40 for a threatening phone call to a private residence, $80 for a bomb threat to a school, and $500 for an airplane scare. Kadar operated on the dark net and disguised his IP address, using a powerful self-installed antenna to tap into remote networks, and software to mask his voice. According to an indictment filed against him in Florida, he spent some of his calls going into graphic detail threatening the deaths of children in American Jewish centers.

A Small Fortune in Bitcoins

At the time of his arrest, Kadar had amassed around 184 Bitcoins for such services—about half a million dollars at the time, and closer to $680,000 today. He also dealt in bomb making manuals, drugs, and child pornography.

Kadar is the son of an American mother, and his father is an Israeli engineer, and has dual citizenship. The US Department of Justice has also indicted Kadar for 32 crimes, including hate crimes, cyberstalking, giving false information to the police, and making threatening phone calls to around 200 institutions. A separate indictment also accuses Kadar of threatening the children of a former CIA and Pentagon official with kidnapping and murder, and links him to over 245 threatening calls.

When Kadar was arrested, he tried to escape by grabbing a pistol from a police officer, but was wrestled to the ground. Thursday’s conviction follows a cooperative investigation by the FBI and Israeli authorities, who have not been able to recover Kadar’s Bitcoins.

Teen’s Mother Calls Conviction ‘Cruel’

Kadar’s mother spoke outside the courtroom after her son’s sentencing, saying “This is the most cruel, cruel thing in the world. I’m very sorry, but I am ashamed that the country acts this way.” She insisted that her son needed treatment, not prison.

In an earlier interview she told Israeli TV her sun was suffering from a brain tumor, which made school difficult for him. Because of this and his autism, Kadar was homeschooled.

Defense lawyer Shira Nir said these conditions made Kadar unfit to stand trial, as he could not distinguish right from wrong. A medical panel confirmed the defendant’s autistic condition, but concluded he was capable of understanding the consequences of his actions. Judge Gurfinkel said Kadar’s conditions were taken into account, lessening the sentence from 17 years in prison to 10.

Bitcoin Uses As Much Energy As Austria, Could Add 2°C to Earth’s Atmosphere 2,187 21768

Bitcoin mining, it turns out, damages the earth more than more traditional environmental assaults like actual mineral mining.

According to a paper published Monday in Nature Sustainability, the power-hungry Bitcoin mining process consumes more than triple the amount of energy needed to mine the equivalent amount of gold, more than quadruple what’s needed for copper, and more than double what it takes to mine platinum.

Other coins didn’t fare much better. By their measurements, Ethereum and Litecoin consume 7 megajoules of electricity to produce the equivalent of $1, the same energy expenditure as copper mining but more than that of platinum or gold. Monero eats up 14 megajoules to produce $1.

Naturally, these measurements refer to the notoriously variable dollar valuations of such tokens. “While the market prices of the coins are quite volatile,” write researchers Max J. Krause and Thabet Tolaymat, “the network hashrates for three of the four cryptocurrencies have trended consistently upward, suggesting that energy requirements will continue to increase.”

Bitcoin’s Growing Electricity Bill is Bigger Than Some Countries

We’ve long known that Bitcoin is unsustainable. In a 2015 article for Motherboard, Christopher Malmo pointed out that a single Bitcoin transaction used 5,033 times as much energy as a Visa swipe, and could power 1.5 American homes for a day.

The electricity used to crunch Bitcoin code—and its environmental cost—has been growing with its increasing popularity. Digiconomist’s Bitcoin Energy Consumption Index shows Bitcoin currently consuming 73.12 terawatt hours (or 263.232 billion megajoules) of electricity annually. To put that in context, it’s comparable to the amount of energy it takes to power Austria for a year.

That means there are 175ish countries on earth using less energy than Bitcoin (to say nothing of crypto on the whole), while 66 countries consume less energy per capita than one Bitcoin transaction (it takes 94 thousand kilowatt hours of electricity to mine a single Bitcoin).

Iceland, a major hub of Bitcoin mining farms, spends nearly as much energy on Bitcoin as it does powering its residential homes. In this case, the damage is mitigated because most of Iceland’s power comes from renewable energy.

Canada’s Bitcoin emissions are also on the lower end due to renewable energy sources. They’re using this to court mining companies from China, where mining emissions are about four times that of Canada’s. Montreal International attracts foreign investment by calling Quebec the land of “green bitcoin”. This has caught the eye of some Chinese mining companies looking to go overseas as the Chinese government has discouraged expansion and shut down some mining operations altogether.

Depending on Bitcoin’s growth, some have projected that it could use as much energy as the entire world by 2020.

Digital Currency Has a Real Carbon Footprint

Krause’s and Tolaymat’s research reminds us of the sobering reality that all this invisible wealth has real world costs.

For the 30 months they measured between January 2016 and June 2018, they estimate their four featured tokens collectively belched out at least 3 million tons of CO2 emissions, possibly as much as 15 million tons.

These findings follow another study, published last month, which determined Bitcoin alone could add two degrees Celcius to global warming within the next three decades. That’s enough to raise ocean acidity by 29 percent.

Solving Bitcoin’s Energy Consumption Crisis

So what is the solution? If the world were to switch to 100 percent renewable energy overnight, the problem would be moot. But we can’t hold our breath for that. There could be ways of incentivizing clean energy so greener mines reap more coins, or of implementing clean energy in other ways.

It’s also possible to adopt less computationally intensive mining algorithms so the mining computers don’t guzzle as much juice. This would disappoint a lot of old school Bitcoiners who have invested in hardware, but their feelings don’t really outweigh that 2 degrees celcius that everyone will have to live with (or die by).

Whatever the best solution turns out to be, something needs to change soon. Bitcoin is growing up, and it’s time for it to mature into something more sustainable.

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