“The building blocks of Bitcoin” doesn’t just refer to the digital blocks published by miners every 10 minutes or so; it could equally refer to the multitudinous milestones that have been reached since Satoshi Nakamoto published the original whitepaper. By the end of the 2010s, bitcoin had posted gains of more than 9,000,000%, but while commentators lost their shit over this meteoric growth, few considered the steps that were taken along the way; the bricks that were methodically laid so the network could attain this growth.
Bitcoin still has many “firsts” left to accomplish (first transaction from outer space, anyone?), but in just over a decade has achieved a helluva lot. Here, we recap the bricks that have already been grouted in place – the firsts that took bitcoin to the next stage of its evolution.
The First Block Mined
As 2009 began, bitcoin was a dream, an idea – more or less intangible. Then Satoshi mined the genesis block and properly set the ball rolling. The hardcoded block was the first of over 600,000 mined to date, and carried the standard 50 BTC reward subsidy that was the norm pre-halving. Only this 50 BTC could never be spent. Satoshi etched a message into the coinbase parameter, alluding to his motivation for creating bitcoin in the first place: “The Times 03/Jan/2009 Chancellor on brink of second bailout for banks.”
The First Bitcoin Transaction
Satoshi sent the first bitcoin to developer and confidant Hal Finney three days after mining block zero. Eleven years later, the number of global bitcoin transactions has crept past 500 million. Finney was the lucky recipient of 50 BTC that day, recorded in block 170. Monetary value at the time? Zero.
The First Bitcoin Wallet
Like the black-and-white television, the earliest bitcoin wallet set a precedent upon its release in February 2009, enabling users to send and receive coins and digitally sign transactions. The rudimentary Bitcoin-QT wallet was the brainchild of Satoshi, and as it was a full client, users had to download the full blockchain history for it to sync. After evolving through several iterations, it became known as the Bitcoin Core wallet and remains in use today.
The First Bitcointalk Post
Gavin Andresen. Mike Hearn. Hal Finney. The rock stars of bitcoin were all accounted for during the formative years, with Satoshi orchestrating conversation between them the way a conductor marshals an ensemble of talented (or just plain eager) musicians. The floodgates opened on November 22, 2009, when Satoshi welcomed users to “the new Bitcoin forum” and the rest, as they say, is history.
The First Bitcoin Exchange
“I’m in the process of building an exchange,” declared Bitcointalk user dwdollar, with the matter-of-fact air of Trump proposing a border wall. When dwdollar’s ideas came to fruition a few months later, bitcoinmarket.com became the first ever crypto exchange, a place where early adopters could transact bitcoin and cash out to fiat using PayPal. Bitcoinmarket laid the blueprint for Mt. Gox and its more stable successors: fast-forward 10 years and global exchanges, alongside a handful of successful mining giants, make most of the money in crypto.
The First Real-World Bitcoin Purchase
“I’ll pay 10,000 bitcoins for a couple of pizzas.. like maybe 2 large ones so I have some left over for the next day… If you’re interested please let me know and we can work out a deal.” With those words, Florida resident Laszlo Hanycez initiated the first bitcoin-for-goods purchase in May 2010, becoming immortalized in the process. Best damn pizzas ever, apparently.
The First Bitcoin Faucet
Getting your grubby hands on some bitcoin is easy nowadays; you can buy it with your credit card on many exchanges or use a crypto-fiat banking service like Wirex or Revolut. In the early days, this wasn’t possible: the basic infrastructure didn’t exist. Back then, obtaining BTC was a matter of mining or arranging on-the-hoof trades on Bitcointalk. Recognizing this, Gavin Andresen pioneered the first bitcoin faucet, a website dedicated to dispensing crypto via airdrops, on June 11, 2010. All users had to do was complete a captcha and they’d earn the princely sum of 5 BTC. The ravenous could return every day, Oliver Twist style, if they wanted moar.
The First Bitcoin Mining Pool
Like football casuals palling together to form the first firm, bitcoin miners’ decision to combine their resources changed the game. In November 2010, war was declared on those “few lucky guys with fast GPUs” as the idea of cooperative mining gained momentum. Slush Pool was the flower that sprouted from Slush’s seed (say that three times fast after a few tequilas), initially boasting 600 MH/s of power. Unlike Bitcoinmarket which went the way of the dodo, Slush Pool flourished – today it commands 5.6% of the BTC network hashrate, making it the seventh largest mining pool on Earth.
The First USD Milestone
On February 9, 2011 – just nine months after Laszlo dropped 10,000 BTC on a few pizzas – bitcoin reached parity with the world’s largest reserve currency, the US dollar. No longer could sceptics insist that bitcoin was worthless, backed by nothing, a circle jerk. (Actually they could and still do – but fuck ‘em.) 1 BTC was now as good as the dollar bill in your pants pocket, and in four months’ time it would be worth 30 of them. The runaway train accelerated.
The First Time the World Took Notice
One of Satoshi’s final dispatches was a plea for Wikileaks not to use bitcoin, claiming the “beta community” couldn’t cope with the heat it would bring about. Although Julian Assange initially demurred, he soon changed his mind: bitcoin represented the perfect vehicle to steer the whistleblower around the US banking blockade, and a payments channel was established in June 2011, after bitty’s first major boom. In the years following, Wikileaks’ address received over 4,000 BTC in donations. The organization’s interest redounded to bitcoin’s credit: it bolstered the crypto’s reputation as a workable alternative to fiat, a dependable decentralized currency that – unlike the PayPals and Moneybookers of the world – couldn’t be shut down. Bitcoin had come of age.