Bitcoin, like the Queen of England, has two birthdays. One takes place on October 31, the date the Bitcoin whitepaper was published, while the other takes place on January 3, which is the date the first Bitcoin was mined. This block, called the ‘genesis block’, was the realization of the ambitions and principles laid out in the whitepaper, which is why some argue it is the more important date of the two. This article takes a look at what we know about the event and what it continues to represent to this day.
The Block That Started It All
Somewhere in the world on January 3, 2009, Satoshi Nakamoto was tapping away at his computer, waiting for it to spit out the lines of code that would, he hoped, usher in a financial revolution. Finally, he saw what he had been looking for, what he and the cypherpunks had been working towards for decades:
This line of code, which came with a 50 Bitcoin block reward (worth $190,000 today), was the result of over two years’ worth of coding from Nakamoto, who would be the sole code editor until 2010. Nakamoto created the block to be unspendable, though he never explained why, but this hasn’t stopped more than 16 BTC being deposited to the address across more than 1,000 separate transactions. The 50 BTC block reward, too, is unspendable. The creation of this code also put an immediate cap on the amount of Bitcoin that could ever be mined – 21 million. The first Bitcoin itself was sent to Hal Finney, who many suspect to be Nakamoto himself. We don’t know what Finney did with it, but he probably didn’t order any pizza.
Read All About It!
Another key aspect to the genesis block is the famous accompanying Times headline:
Some claim this is just a date stamp that happens to feature a headline about the banking crisis. Others claim that this particular headline was chosen for that very reason, as a reminder of what can happen when greed and financial monopoly is allowed to grow unchecked. The use of an English newspaper headline has led to some suspecting the creator(s) of Bitcoin were British, but it’s likely that it was a quirk of fate that Nakamoto could not resist.
A Time For Reflection
Remarkable as it may be, the genesis block itself is not as remarkable as what it represents. To some Bitcoin has been a path to the billionaires club, to some it stands as a symbol of true libertarianism, to some it is insurance against a potential collapse of the fiat money system, while to others Bitcoin represents the only way they can provide food and shelter in the face of oppressive regimes. Whatever you think of Bitcoin, and whatever you’re in it for, these lines of code kickstarted a revolution, which has improved the lives of thousands of people all over the world and should continue to do so for many decades to come.