Bitcoin Client Anniversary

Thirteen years ago, on January 9th 2009, the original Bitcoin Client software was released by Satoshi Nakamoto, Bitcoin’s pseudonymous creator. Now nicknamed the ‘Satoshi Client’, it included a record of the Bitcoin blockchain, the first-ever Bitcoin mining software, and a wallet to store mined coins. 

The release was an open invitation to the world to take part in a freer, fairer financial system. You didn’t need to pay an entry fee, give a secret password, or open an account with a third party. Anyone could download the client, inspect the blockchain, and mine, send, and receive bitcoins.

The first person other than Satoshi to download the Bitcoin client was Hal Finney. Finney was a cryptographic whiz and cypherpunk who had worked on a precursor to Bitcoin called RPOW. Finney received the news via a cryptography newsletter that Satoshi had sent out, and downloaded the client right away. He became the first adopter of Bitcoin, and in January 2009 played a role in several pieces of Bitcoin history. 

Hal Finney Makes History

After downloading the client on the 11th of January, Hal Finney tweeted out two now-legendary words: “Running bitcoin”. This was the first ever Tweet about Bitcoin, and signalled Finney’s support for the project. On the same day, he used the Bitcoin Client to successfully mine block “70-something” for a reward of 50 BTC—now worth over $2 million—becoming the first person other than Nakamoto to mine bitcoins. 

The release of the Bitcoin Client and Finney’s adoption of the software marked an important step in the development of Bitcoin. For Bitcoin to become truly decentralised, as it is today, it needed to become a network of independent individuals collectively verifying transactions and securing the blockchain. By joining Satoshi, Hal Finney helped Bitcoin become a functioning peer-to-peer technology.

A day later, he was involved in another piece of cryptocurrency history. On 12th January, Satoshi sent Finney 10 BTC with the first Bitcoin transaction ever conducted. Those 10 bitcoins were worth virtually zero at the time, but the transaction itself was invaluable: it proved that Bitcoin worked. Satoshi and Finney had demonstrated that money could be sent digitally between two individuals without the need for a central authority like a bank.

Hal Finney went on to tweet several more times about Bitcoin after the first transaction. His “Running bitcoin” tweet and those that followed marked the entrance of Bitcoin onto mainstream social media, and laid the foundations for what would become “Bitcoin Twitter”. Today, there are hundreds of thousands of Bitcoin-related tweets published every day, with a record of nearly 364,000 on 19th May 2021. 

Bitcoin Twitter is arguably one of the most important elements of Bitcoin’s growth story. Whether it’s Michael Saylor rattling off a Bitcoin theory of everything or Elon Musk flip-flopping on his Bitcoin holdings, Tweets have been a crucial weapon in the Bitcoin advocate’s arsenal. 

Hal Finney’s original Tweet was the first of millions that have pushed Bitcoin deeper and deeper into public consciousness, and “Running bitcoin” marked the beginning of the most numerous and vocal chapter of the Bitcoin community.

Where Are We Now?

The network has come a long way from Nakamoto and Finney using the original Bitcoin Client to mine BTC using regular computers. Thirteen years on, mining is a multi-billion dollar industry, with mining companies like Marathon and Argo Blockchain being publicly listed on the world’s most prestigious stock exchanges. It is estimated that more than one million miners around the world help to secure the Bitcoin network today.

There have been around 700 million transactions since Satoshi sent those first 10 BTC to Hal Finney. Notable among these are the first Bitcoin-to-fiat sale and the famous “Bitcoin pizza” transaction, which gave BTC monetary value. 

That monetary value has been increasing ever since, reaching highs of nearly $69,000 in late 2021. Last year also saw Bitcoin adopted as legal tender in El Salvador, and a Bitcoin ETF hit the American market, signalling growing mainstream acceptance. 

All of this started with the humblest of beginnings, though. Without Satoshi opening up the network to the world and allowing us all to participate, without Hal Finney making Bitcoin a peer-to-peer network, and without the first ever transaction proving that Bitcoin really did work, where would we be? 

We’d be stuck in a world where governments constantly devalue our savings, where financial exclusion is frighteningly prevalent, and where we rely on fragile third parties for a large proportion of our financial activities. 

That’s why as Bitcoin’s festive season approaches, we believe it’s important to reflect on the story so far, and to be thankful. Thankful for Satoshi Nakamoto, for the late Hal Finney, for the Bitcoin community, and for Bitcoin itself.

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