The Rise of Bitcoin

On October 31st, 2008, an article appeared on a mailing list about cryptography. Similar to an academic paper, the document contained an abstract, the main text and bibliographic references. The title was simple: Bitcoin. A Electronic Cash System. The author was a previously unknown member named Satoshi Nakamoto. Next to the author’s name, there was an email for contact and the address of a website:

Initially, few people showed interest in the project proposed by Satoshi. The attempt to create a digital was not new, and all previous attempts had failed for one or more reasons. But the author was aware of that. Earlier attempts were mentioned, along with ideas for how to get around the difficulties.

Somehow, all the technologies behind Bitcoin had already been created by that date. Satoshi’s greatest genius was integrating various technologies into a single , using cryptography and in a peer-to-peer environment. Thus, it was possible to create a digital currency that avoided one of the biggest problems faced in early attempts: . In more technical terms, the Bitcoin protocol was Byzantine fault tolerant.

That article, called the Bitcoin whitepaper, marked the beginning of a revolution in what we consider to be money. But what is Bitcoin? What is it based on? Is it a coincidence that it appeared at the end of 2008, the year of the biggest economic crisis after the Great Depression? To better understand what is Bitcoin, we should study the history of its precursors and the environment in which it emerged.

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