If I were to tell you of the history of cryptocurrencies, I would have to begin with cryptographer David Chaum, who in the 1980s devised an extraordinarily secure algorithm that allowed for the kind of encryption required in electronic fund transfers. Chaum’s “blinding algorithm” laid the groundwork for the future development of all types of digitalized currency transactions, be it alternative currencies like Bitcoin or just plain old digitalized cash transfers.
In the later part of the 1980s, Chaum relocated to the Netherlands, and, with the help of a few fellow enthusiasts, laid the foundation of DigiCash, a for-profit cryptocurrency network based on his “blinded money” algorithm. Unlike newer cryptocurrencies, DigiCash exercised full monopoly over its supply, a far cry from being a decentralized mode of transaction such as Bitcoin. While DigiCash was founded with the idea of trading directly with individuals, the Netherlands government imposed severe restrictions on the company, forcing it to sell only to licensed banks. This seriously curtailed the company’s profits, and after a decade of struggling and being partnered with by Microsoft, the company finally closed doors in the 1990s. Chaum did go on to try his luck on a few similar cryptocurrency startups at the time, though none of them were really successful to begin with.
There’s a number of reasons why cryptocurrencies are so inherently popular. They are safe, anonymous and utterly decentralized. Unlike conventional currency, they are not controlled or regulated by some singular authority, their flow is determined entirely by market demand. They are also nigh impossible to counterfeit, thanks to the paranoidly complicated code system that encrypts each and every transfer, ensuring complete anonymity and utter safety to each and every user. They even make for a genuinely rewarding, if risky, investment endeavor, despite the fact that any financial advisor in their right mind will caution you against them. Therefore, despite the admittedly high stakes that this sort of dealing entails, not to mention the lack of any government agency to lend credence to them, cryptocurrencies can only thrive and multiply.
Fast forward to 2008, when a whitepaper was released under the pseudonym of Satoshi Nakamoto, detailing what would be widely regarded as the first modern cryptocurrency initiative. The idea combined concepts such as decentralization, perfect anonymity, finite supply and blockchain technology to pave the way for what we know as Bitcoin. Nakamoto, a pseudonymous individual or individuals operating under a fake name, released Bitcoin to the public in 2009. This idea was soon taken up by a gazillion different startups such as Litecoin. In 2010, Bitcoin received recognition as a proper currency after merchants such as WordPress, Expedia and Microsoft began accepting it as a mode of payment.
“I am personally excited for the future of cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology in general. Current innovations such as Bitcoin, Ethereum, and others are just the beginning for this technology that can help revamp many industries. There is plenty of opportunity in this space.” - Chalmers Brown, Forbes
Bitcoin: Image Courtesy of Coindesk
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