‘Bitcoin At 10: Untold Stories,’ CoinDesk’s First Interactive Multimedia Feature



Satoshi Nakamoto may have done something truly innovative in 2009 by publishing the white paper for the first-ever decentralized digital currency, but the pseudonymous creator/s didnu2019t develop bitcoin in a vacuum.n

In fact, the seeds for the development of bitcoin were sown decades earlier by what became known as the cypherpunk movement.n

In 1992, when home internet users were still on dial-up modems and the entire web had no more than a hundred websites, a small group of tech-heads began meeting in airless rooms around the Bay area and online on various mailing lists to discuss things like privacy, freedom of speech and fast, anonymous electronic transactions.n

One of the three cypherpunks who began these meetings, Eric Hughes, summed it up in a manifesto: u201cCypherpunks write code. We know that someone has to write software to defend privacy, and since we can’t get privacy unless we all do, we’re going to write it.u201dn

Shortly after the cypherpunks formed, the government began cracking down on the broader distribution of this code, setting the scene for a group-wide attempt at civil disobedience.n

People would print RSA encryption source code on T-shirts to defy the authorities. MIT printed PGP source code in a book to be distributed internationally. And people even got tattoos of forbidden code.n

It was a conceptual game of cat and mouse, but it surfaced important principles that would underpin bitcoin years later. The cypherpunks engendered many of the concepts and created some of the concrete projects that would nudge the idea of digital cash further along u2013 exploring how to make transactions anonymous and put them outside centralized control. n

u201cCypherpunks was a marvelous escapade before disintegrating, with at least two notable persistencies u2013 bitcoin and WikiLeaks, neither of which began there but both got boosted,” said John Young, an early and prolific contributor to the cypherpunk mailing list.Young calls them both Ponzi schemes, fit for each other, thriving on public credulity, yet he doesn’t think that’s particularly bad either.n

He told CoinDesk: n

u201cMay they survive, grow, multiply, diverge, breed new better and worse versions, enrage defenders of the status quo, government, law enforcement, religion. This is what the cypherpunks intended.u201dn

Below, then, CoinDesk has designed a partial snapshot of an incredibly rich period in the internet’s growth.n

We chose to focus on the contributors to the original list and its decentralized siblings in the period from 1992 until 2000, because this was the period during which most of the seminal cypherpunk ideas took shape. Our map highlights some of the key figures, organizations and tools in the cypherpunk movement that surely cultivated the environment for bitcoin to be imaged and released. nn”,”baten_topic_parent_category_slug”:”the-wizards”}];
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