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“I’ve been working on a new electronic cash system that’s fully peer-to-peer, with no trusted third party.”Satoshi Nakamoto, Creator of Bitcoin, in their first email sent to the Cryptography Mailing List. November 1, 2008. On November 1, 2008, one Satoshi Nakamoto shared the working paper for a new decentralised, digital currency they called Bitcoin. In it, they outlined issues that pervaded commerce on the internet, such as the need for middlemen – financial institutions – that overlooked transactions and verified their authenticity, maintaining a sense of order in an evolving space. These institutions fill in the need for authentication of the identity of all parties involved in a transaction and in the unfortunate event of something going wrong, have the authority to reverse the said transaction. As Nakamoto put it, “Merchants must be wary of their customers, hassling them for more information than they would otherwise need.” Highlighting weaknesses in the trust based model of commerce, they pointed out that the mediation of “middlemen” in transactions increased the cost associated with every transaction in turn – ultimately having the effect of limiting the practicality and costs of small, casual transactions. While the physical exchange of currency mitigated these trust issues, an analogous mechanism did not exist in the digital world to enable payments between two parties – each of which withheld “unnecessary” information revealing their identity – without involving a mutually trusted third party to take care of those issues. Bitcoin was proposed as an electronic payment system based on cryptographic proof instead of trust. Per the paper, each electronic coin is defined as a chain of digital signatures. The current owner, like the others before them, transfers the coin to the next by digitally ‘signing’ the end of the coin with details such as the wallet address of the party they are transferring the wallet to. The public key of either party is a string that describes the address of a bitcoin wallet. This key can be shared, as the name says, with the public. To verify the authenticity of a transaction, a payee can inspect the signatures on the coin, which reveal proof of every transaction where the coin has changed hands in the past. Everyone must hold Bitcoin in a wallet. To retain access to their wallet, one must always remember their private key, which is a string of randomly generated numbers and letters. It is always mathematically related to a bitcoin wallet, but it is impossible to reverse-engineer this private key to reveal any identifying information thanks to Bitcoin’s cryptographically strong foundation. As the name goes, this key must be kept private. However, lose access to this key, and you lose the ability to access your Bitcoin wallet and consequently, the ability to spend any funds it may contain. Scour the internet, and one will encounter numerous posters lamenting about making that mistake. The Blockchain was introduced as a way to hold information about verified Bitcoin transactions in the public domain. As the name suggests, it is a series of blocks of transactions that occurred in a specific time frame and each block contains multiple transactions. When a computer comes online on the Bitcoin network, it downloads the entire blockchain to come up to speed on all verified transactions that happened while it was away. Whenever a transaction occurs, its details are updated on the database, which are confirmed by multiple computers on the network. In this way, multiple copies of this verified database exist, being continuously updated and verified. If someone were to try and defraud the system, they would most likely fall behind the speed at which transactions are processed.The blockchain solved another long-standing issue with digital currencies that came before it – double spending. Earlier, the owner of one coin could transfer it to you, and once that happened successfully, sign it over to another party as well – leading to two forking records of the same coin changing hands with different entities. The financial institution that had the job of verifying the transaction would see two conflicting chains of events, which was problematic. Since Bitcoin is a decentralised system, a transaction needs to be confirmed by multiple computers to be considered legitimate. In case a coin is double spent, the transaction that is vetted by more computers as being legitimate is considered final, the latter being invalid. In this way, the vote of the majority is treated as the vote of a central ‘authority’ – a job previously performed by middlemen.On January 9, 2009, Nakamoto announced the first usable version of Bitcoin, that had been months in the works. Along with a few instructions on setting up, they also described the two ways one could transact in Bitcoin. The first is by sending/receiving Bitcoin as one would expect with regular currency. The second, is to mine it. A miner creates a block of transactions by gathering a set of pending transactions, verifying them, and solving a complex math problem. Every few minutes, one miner is rewarded for their work with a specific number of BTC, which was designed to halve every four years. Another caveat with Bitcoin is that Nakamoto designed the system such that there can only exist 21 million coins in total. At the time of writing, 16, 790, 638 BTC (roughly 78% of total limit) are in circulation.As time passed, Bitcoin rose and fell in popularity and favour, going from being worth tens or hundreds of Dollars to thousands, and falling back again. Worth about $1,240 sometime in 2013, 1 BTC fell to about $240 in May 2015. At the time of writing, 1 BTC is worth $14,992.69 – having skyrocketed in value in 2017. Among the tech-savvy, early adopters with innocent intentions, those engaged in illicit activities flocked to the cryptocurrency to partake in arguably its biggest advantage – the anonymity it afforded to everyone. Drug and illegal arms trade took on a new fervour when online marketplaces on the dark web, most notably Silk Road began accepting Bitcoin. Due to this inability to regulate them, most countries in the world are treading carefully with their treatment of cryptocurrencies. per a recent announcement, Bitcoin is not considered legal tender in India. While most other countries don’t consider them outright illegal, there are varying regulations on their use.Looking at Bitcoin from its infancy, it’s not hard to see the meteoric, and rightly turbulent rise the cryptocurrency has seen in about nine years. From being envisioned in a white-paper in a seemingly academic setting, to briefly becoming an ‘enabler’ for nefarious purposes, Bitcoin has come a long way. The individual (or group of people) behind the pseudonymous Satoshi Nakamoto set in motion a wave of change and rightly so.As of today, multiple cryptocurrencies have entered the picture, each of which is bullish – seemingly with its sights trained beyond the stars. Amidst the roar of cryptocurrencies and the howling of turbulent winds, the one entity conspicuous due to their deafening silence, is Satoshi. One can only speculate – how far did we come before reality strayed away from the vision; or was this how it was meant to be?Nakamoto’s last communication was received on April 23, 2011, per public knowledge.USABLE QUOTES:”Two former federal agents have been charged with wire fraud, money laundering and related offenses for stealing digital currency during their investigation of the Silk Road, an underground black market that allowed users to conduct illegal transactions over the Internet.”Press Release by the US Department of Justice. March 30, 2015.It might make sense just to get some in case it catches on. If enough people think the same way, that becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. Once it gets bootstrapped, there are so many applications if you could effortlessly pay a few cents to a website as easily as dropping coins in a vending machine.Satoshi Nakamoto, in an email thread in the Cryptography Mailing List. January 17, 2009.

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