Bitcoin’s long gestation and early opposition indicates it is an example of the ‘Worse is Better’ paradigm in which an ugly complex design informal value transfer system bitcoin mining few attractive theoretical properties compared to purer competitors nevertheless successfully takes over a niche, survives, and becomes gradually refined. But the interesting thing is, Satoshi could be anybody.
Bitcoin involves no major intellectual breakthroughs, so Satoshi need have no credentials in cryptography or be anything but a self-taught programmer! I can’t tell you why it took as long for weblogs to happen as it did, except to say it had absolutely nothing to do with technology. Every single piece of it was right there. The interesting thing is that all the pieces were in place for at least 8 years before Satoshi’s publication, which was followed more than half a year later4 by the first public5 prototype. This lack of novelty is part of the appeal – the fewer new parts of a cryptosystem, the less danger10. All that was lacking was a Satoshi to start a Bitcoin. Delay But with the benefit of this hindsight, one can wonder – why this delay?
12, if it is very far from the cutting-edge of cryptography13, then there’s no reason it would not be seriously tried. Is the problem one of resources? A block header with no transactions would be about 80 bytes. With computer systems typically selling with 2GB of RAM as of 2008, and Moore’s Law predicting current growth of 1. 2GB per year, storage should not be a problem even if the block headers must be kept in memory.
That’s fine to say in 2008, after many doublings. Would memory be a problem in the 1990s? Bitcoin was begun in the early 1990s, the changeover would simply have occurred sooner. Contemporary objections As well, few of the objections to cryptocurrencies seem to have been computers which can run it are fantastically expensive18.
So if the basic idea is accessible, and it’s useful on consumer-grade hardware for the last 20 years or so, then what’s the problem? Satoshi’s response was that he expected most Bitcoin users to eventually become second-class citizens as they switched to the thin client scheme he outlined in the whitepaper for only keeping part of the blockchain and delegating storage to the real peers. Bitcoin is not a list of cryptographic features, it’s a very complex system of interacting mathematics and protocols in pursuit of what was a very unpopular goal. Is there any particular fatal flaw of Bitcoin that explains why no one but Satoshi came up with it? What’s wrong with Bitcoin is that it’s ugly. The basic insight of Bitcoin is clever, but clever in an ugly compromising sort of way.
It has been decided that anyone who feels like it will announce a time, and whatever time is heard first will be the official attack time. The problem is that the network is not instantaneous, and if two generals announce different attack times at close to the same time, some may hear one first and others hear the other first. They use a proof-of-work chain to solve the problem. Once each general receives whatever attack time he hears first, he sets his computer to solve an extremely difficult proof-of-work problem that includes the attack time in its hash.
The proof-of-work is so difficult, it’s expected to take 10 minutes of them all working at once before one of them finds a solution. After two hours, one attack time should be hashed by a chain of 12 proofs-of-work. Every general, just by verifying the difficulty of the proof-of-work chain, can estimate how much parallel CPU power per hour was expended on it and see that it must have required the majority of the computers to produce that much proof-of-work in the allotted time. They had to all have seen it because the proof-of-work is proof that they worked on it.