Bitcoin (BTC) is a peer-to-peer digital currency and payment system built upon a publicly verifiable, decentralized ledger, the Bitcoin blockchain. Launched in 2009, the cryptocurrency finally offered a way to avoid double spending (a unit of money being used more than once) without the need for third-party verification.
The Bitcoin blockchain (the token is commonly referred to using the lowercase ‘bitcoin’, the protocol by the uppercase ‘Bitcoin’) is open source and is supported by nodes – computers keeping a record of the blockchain ledger – and miners, who supply the computing power required to process and verify transactions in exchange for bitcoin rewards.
The blockchain has been designed so that the supply of bitcoin decreases over time, thereby ensuring the scarcity that gives the currency its value. This mimics the supply of gold, hence the term ‘mining’.
How The Blockchain Started
On 31 October 2008 an anonymous individual (or group of individuals) published a whitepaper under the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto. Titled “Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System” (download PDF – 180KB), the paper introduced the idea of bitcoin, the first decentralized cryptocurrency. A few months later, on 03 January 2009, the Genesis block was mined and the Bitcoin blockchain began.
Facts About Bitcoin
31 October 2008 – the date on which Satoshi Nakamoto published the whitepaper, “Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System” (see link to PDF under Sources), and introduced the idea of bitcoin to the world, the first of many decentralized cryptocurrencies.
$198 billion – the market capitalization of bitcoin as of mid-June 2019 (coinmarketcap.com).
0.03% – the approximate amount of total world wealth (estimated at $256 trillion) held in bitcoin.
0.07% – the approximate amount of North American household wealth ($92 trillion) held in bitcoin.
03 January 2009 – the date that the Bitcoin blockchain began (at 18:15 UTC).
65 – the number of days after the publication of the bitcoin whitepaper that the first block was mined.
50 – the number of bitcoin recorded in the very first transaction of the very first block (known in blockchain as the Genesis block) and awarded to the creator.
Did You Know?
More than a decade on from the publication of the whitepaper, the identity of Satoshi Nakamoto remains unknown to the wider world. Nakamoto could be an individual or group of individuals. He, she, or they certainly existed – the whitepaper was authored, after all – but that is as much as can be known with any certainty. See some interesting facts on Satoshi Nakamoto in the panel, below.
21,000,000 – the maximum number of bitcoin to be created. Being coded in, this could be changed, but would require consensus to do so (and as any increase in supply would very likely reduce the value of existing BTC, there is an inbuilt disincentive to make such a move).
85% – the percentage of the total intended bitcoin supply mined as at late June 2019 (17,776,275 btc).
144 – the approximate number of blocks being mined per day on the Bitcoin blockchain.
1,728 – the number of new bitcoin being mined per day (as at August 2017).
2140 – the estimated year in which the final bitcoin will be mined.
Bitcoin For Pizza
22 May 2010 – the date of the first documented use of bitcoin to purchase a physical product.
2 – the number of Papa John pizzas that Jeremy Sturdivant (username “jercos”) bought and delivered to Laszlo Hanyecz, a computer programmer based in Florida USA, in response to a request posted on the Bitcointalk forum.
10,000 – the number of bitcoins Hanyecz paid Sturdivant for the pizzas.
$30 – the approximate value of those 10,000 bitcoins at the time.
$111,000,000 – the approximate value of those bitcoins as of June 2019 (with bitcoin trading at $11,133).
210,000 – the target number of blocks created at which the number of bitcoins generated by mining drops by 50% – known as “the Halving” (also known as “the Halvening”, “reward drop”, or “reward halving”) – thereby ensuring a finite supply (scarcity being an important property of money).
4 – the number of years it takes to produce the 210,000 blocks that mark the 50% output reduction.
50 – the number of bitcoin released per block at the outset of bitcoin mining in 2009.
28 November 2012 – the date the first halving occurred, which dropped the block reward to 25 bitcoin.
09 July 2016 – the date of the second, and most recent, halving.
12.5 – the number of bitcoin released with each new block mined today.
17 June 2020 – the date on which the next bitcoin halving will occur, when the block reward will reduce to 6.25 BTC.
Did You Know?
The rate at which the supply of bitcoin is set to decrease was chosen due to its close approximation to the rate at which gold is mined. This is why the term ‘miners’ is used for the participants who process the blocks on the blockchain.
10 minutes – the approximate rate at which new Bitcoin blocks are mined.
2,016 – the number of blocks at which mining difficulty is recalculated. Difficulty is adjusted to ensure that, based upon the current number of miners on the network, the previous 2016 blocks mined would have taken two weeks to generate.
60-75% – the estimated amount of all new bitcoin released in 2017 that were being produced by mega-mining operations in China (where the two key requirements – cheap computer hardware and cheap electricity – were readily available).
1 MB – the maximum amount of data the Bitcoin blockchain can process in any 10 minute period, prior to SegWit2x.
7 – the maximum number of transactions the Bitcoin network could handle, per second, prior to SegWit2x.
December 2015 – the date at which Bitcoin developer Pieter Wuille originally proposed SegWit as a scaling solution for bitcoin.
08 August 2017 – the date that the Segregated Witness element of SegWit2x reached the necessary consensus threshold required to lock in, with 100% of bitcoin mining pools signaling their support.
479,707 – the block number at which segregated witness reached consensus threshold (the block being completed by mining pool BitClub).
09 August 2017 – the date that the lock in became official, when the signaling period came to an end (however, it would take a few more weeks to become usable, providing time for mining pools and bitcoin users to upgrade their software).
50 – the number of bitcoin produced which will remain un-spendable (other than those lost through accidentally deleted, lost or inaccessible wallets). These were the block reward (bitcoin created along with each new block) that were included in the very first transaction of the first block created.
8 – the maximum number of decimals into which bitcoin currency can be broken down, the smallest value (and minimum transaction) being 0.00000001 bitcoin. This is a ‘satoshi’, named after the creator of bitcoin.
1,000,000 – the approximate number of bitcoin that the person or persons behind Satoshi Nakamoto are believed to own.
05 April 1975 – the date Satoshi Nakamoto claims as his date of birth.
02 May 2016 – the date Craig Wright, a computer scientist, made a public claim to be Satoshi Nakamoto.
SHA-256 – the cryptographic hash algorithm used for the Bitcoin blockchain, allowing for the near-unique 256-bit (32-byte) digital ‘signatures’ used to secure and ensure data integrity, in both the proof of work algorithm used in mining, and in the creation of individual bitcoin addresses. SHA is an acronym for ‘Secure Hash Algorithm’.
27 November 2013 – the date on which bitcoin passed $1,000 for the first time, a psychologically important threshold.
01 January 2017 – the next occasion on which bitcoin exceeded the $1,000 barrier.
363 – the number of times the media have declared bitcoin to be dead or terminally failing, as of June 2019, according to the website Bitcoin Obituaries (up by a little over 200 times in 2 years).
Bitcoin All-Time High
$20,089 – the all-time-high price of bitcoin, reached on 17 December 2017 (shortly before a significant and prolonged pull-back).
It’s Official: Segregated Witness Will Activate on Bitcoin – Alyssa Hertig, Coinbase (08/08/2017)
Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System – original Satoshi Nakamoto whitepaper (download PDF)