Bitcoin History: Cypherpunks

Original article on Medium

In late 1992, three people (Eric Hughes, a mathematician at the University of California, Berkeley; Tim May, a retired businessman working for Intel, and; John Gilmore, a computer scientist who was Sunmicrosystems’ fifth employee) who had Young retirees, they invited twenty of their closest friends to an informal gathering to discuss some of the world’s seemingly most annoying cryptographic and programming problems.

The Cypherpunks

That initial meeting eventually turned into a monthly meeting held at John Gilmore’s company, Cygnus Solutions. In one of the first meetings, Jude Milhon (hacker and author better known by her pseudonym St. Jude) described the group as the “Cypherpunks”, a play on words “cipher” or “cipher”, one of the ways to interpret cipher and decryption and; cyberpunk a fiction genre popularized by science fiction writers.

From those humble beginnings, a whole movement developed.

As the group grew, it was decided that creating a mailing list would allow them to communicate with other “Cypherpunks” outside of the Bay Area. The mailing list grew in popularity fairly quickly and included hundreds of subscribers exchanging ideas, discussing developments, proposing and testing encryption on a daily basis. These exchanges were carried out using novel encryption methods (at the time), such as PGP, to ensure total privacy. As a result, ideas were freely shared.

This privacy and freedom resulted in fluid discussions on a wide range of topics, from technical ideas such as mathematics, cryptography, and computer science to political and philosophical debates. Although there was never complete agreement on a single thing, this was an open forum where personal privacy and personal freedom were ultimately placed above all other considerations.

The basic ideas behind this movement can be found in the Cypherpunk manifesto written by Eric Hughes in 1993. The key principle behind the manifesto is the importance of privacy. One can see this and other principles discussed in the manifesto being used to build the ideas that underpin some of the largest cryptocurrencies today.

Regarding privacy, the Cypherpunk manifesto says the following:

“Privacy is necessary for an open society in the electronic age. Privacy is no secret. A private matter is something you don’t want everyone to know, but a secret matter is something you don’t want anyone to know. Privacy is the power to selectively reveal yourself to the world. “

It even goes into very practical examples directly related to day-to-day transactions:

“When I buy a magazine in a store and give cash to the employee, there is no need to know who I am. When I ask my email provider to send and receive messages, my provider doesn’t need to know who I am talking to or what I am saying or what others are saying to me; my provider only needs to know how to get the message across and how much I owe them in fees …… .. Therefore, privacy in an open society requires anonymous transaction systems. Until now, cash has been the main system of its kind. An anonymous transaction system is not a secret transaction system. An anonymous system allows people to reveal their identity whenever they want and only when they want to; this is the essence of privacy. “

Based on these principles, various attempts were made to develop digital currencies.

The first attempts

The first attempt at an anonymous transaction system was made by Dr. Adam Back in 1997 when he created Hashcash. In essence, it was an anti-spam mechanism that would add time and cost of computational power to sending email, which would make sending spam uneconomical. A sender would have to prove that they had expended computational power to create a stamp in the header of an email (similar to using proof of work (POW) in Bitcoin) before it can be sent.

The following year, Wei Dai posted a proposal for B-Money. His proposal included two methods for maintaining transaction data; a) each participant of the network will maintain a separate database of how much money belongs to users and, b) all records are maintained by a specific group of users. In the second option, the group of users that has custody of the records is incentivized to be honest because they have deposited their own money in a special account and may lose it if they are not. This method is known as “proof of stake” (POS) and specific user groups (or master nodes) will lose all their funds at stake if they attempt to process any fraudulent transactions.

Many cryptocurrencies are using, or considering moving to this transaction verification method due to its efficiency (the most notable being Ethereum (ETH)).

In 2004, Hal Finney created Reusable Proofs of Work that borrowed the principles from Backs’ Hashcash and in 2005 Nick Szabo published a proposal for Bitgold that was based on ideas developed by Hal Finney and several other projects.

As you can see, a number of people around the world have been working tirelessly on blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies since the 1990s and there have been multiple attempts to solve the complex problems surrounding cryptocurrencies, possibly by some of the most modern minds. bright in this space.

Enter Satoshi

In October 2008, Satoshi Nakamoto, an unknown individual or group of individuals, posted a document to the cypherpunk mailing list at called: “Bitcoin: A Person-to-Person Electronic Cash System.” (I recommend that you read this article, it is only 9 pages long.)

The document made direct references to b-money and hashcash and addressed many of the problems that previous developers faced, including double spending (the risk of a single token being used multiple times to purchase goods). The document attracted much criticism from skeptics, but Nakamoto went ahead and mined the genesis block from Bitcoin on January 3, 2009.

Since its inception, the development of Bitcoin has continued to be criticized by critics and skeptics, but “the honey badger” (as it is commonly known) continues.

Here you have a very interesting mini series, created by the YT ReasonTV channel and I put the subtitles in Spanish – “Cypherpunks write code“.