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About Bitcoin (BTC)

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Bitcoin is the world’s first cryptocurrency and blockchain.

Bitcoin was first described in a white paper published by Satoshi Nakamoto in October, 2008. Nakamoto is believed to be a pseudonym for the individual or group responsible for Bitcoin as there is no record of a computer scientist by this name prior to the launch of Bitcoin in 2009.

At the time, Satoshi claimed to be a 37 year-old man living in Tokyo, Japan. The translation of his name offers interesting insights: satoshi means “clear-thinking” or “wise,” naka means “inside” or “relationship,” and moto means “the origin” or “the foundation.” Taken together, it could be translated as “thinking clearly inside the foundation.”

Satoshi continued to update the Bitcoin source code until 2010 and wrote hundreds of blog posts in flawless English totalling 80,000 words, roughly the length of a novel. Satoshis’ first post used American spellings, however, every subsequent post used British spellings and colloquialisms. His writing timestamps don’t point to any particular time zone.

On the 23rd of April, 2011, Satoshi disappeared from the Internet, telling a developer in an email that he has "moved onto other things." Whoever Satoshi is, he is considered a polymath who possesses extensive knowledge with respect to computer programming, economics, cryptography, and peer-to-peer networking.

Bitcoin was born during the 2008 Financial Crisis. To commemorate this moment in time, Satoshi embedded a Times of London newspaper headline into the metadata of the first block of the Bitcoin blockchain, known as the Genesis Block. It reads: “The Times 03/Jan/2009 Chancellor on brink of second bailout for banks.”

Token

Bitcoin (with a lowercase “b”) or BTC is the digital asset token of the Bitcoin network (Bitcoin with a capital “B”). All BTC balances and transactions are recorded on the Bitcoin blockchain. The smallest subunit of BTC is the “satoshi,” which is named after Bitcoin’s pseudonymous creator, Satoshi Nakamoto. One satoshi is equal to 10-8 BTC or one hundred-millionth of a BTC (0.00000001 bitcoin). Bitcoin can be bought and sold for fiat currency or other digital currencies.

Bitcoin can be purchased on a cryptocurrency exchange and stored in a crypto wallet and custodian like Gemini.

Supply

The supply of bitcoin is deterministic and fixed at 21 million BTC. The supply schedule is embedded in the Bitcoin protocol.

Bitcoin Mining

Satoshi’s major breakthrough was solving the The Byzantine Generals’ Problem. The Bitcoin mining algorithm that Satoshi proposed in the Bitcoin white paper demonstrated how a network of computers around the world could reach consensus with each other and agree on something, even if certain computers were bad actors on the network trying to confuse the others.

This consensus mechanism allows the Bitcoin network to agree on which bitcoin transactions are valid, thereby solving the “double-spend” problem and ensuring that one bitcoin isn’t spent more thans once by the same person. As a result, it safeguards the integrity of the Bitcoin blockchain, a record of all bitcoin balances and transactions, without the need for a trusted third party.

Bitcoin’s consensus mechanism uses a proof of work algorithm. Specifically, miners must solve math puzzles using the SHA-256 hash algorithm of the Secure Hash Algorithm 2 (SHA-2) family. By committing computational power towards solving the Bitcoin mining algorithm, miners audit and verify the transactions of the Bitcoin network. The more computer power a miner brings to bear on the Bitcoin network, the more likely she or he is to solve the proof of work algorithm and win the bitcoin that the network rewards to the miner who writes the newest block to the Bitcoin blockchain.

Characteristics

Bitcoin is often called “digital gold” because its traits closely resemble those of gold. In 2015, a U.S. Federal judge concluded in the Coinflip, Inc. order that bitcoin was legally a “commodity” under the Commodities and Exchange Act.

The following table offers a comparison between bitcoin and gold:

TraitBitcoinGold
ScarcityFixedScarce
DurabilitySoftwareHardware
PortabilitySoftware: Bitcoin can be sent anywhere in the world via the Internet just like email.Hardware: 350-430 fine troy ounces/bar.

(London Bullion Market Association specifications per Good Delivery Rules)
Divisibility0.00000001 bitcoinTroy weight system
Authenticity VerificationBitcoin miners / blockchain ledgerGood Delivery Referees / chemical test
StorageDigital walletSafe or vault
FungibleYesYes
Counterfeit DifficultyProhibitively expensive, has not occurred to date.Difficult, but possible.