The world of Bitcoin is plagued with mysteries, rumors and shocking tales of instant wealth and missed opportunity – but by this point, even your grandmother likely has the gist of what Bitcoin actually is. The most popular, highly valued cryptocurrency around: a digital form of money which was designed to be independent of any states or government intervention.
Now, most would argue that that is pretty damn strange in and of itself, but there are many bizarre facts lurking beneath the already turbulent surface waters of Bitcoin. Without further ado, let’s dive in.
We still have no idea who actually created Bitcoin
The absolute bedrock weird fact of Bitcoin is that we still, after all these years, don’t actually know who its enigmatic creator is. The founder has long been referred to as ‘Satoshi Nakamoto’ owing to a by-line on Bitcoin’s original whitepaper document that took the cryptocurrency world by storm back in 2009, but that isn’t his/her/their real name.
There have been many incorrect attempts at identifying the figure, of course, but none of them have been proven to actually be our mystery man. It isn’t all fun and games, either; some of the feverish sleuthing has resulted in lives being turned upside down, namely that of Dorian Nakamoto – a man who happened to have the same name as ‘Satoshi’ and a few other admittedly intriguing coincidences.
In the end, though, the man had to fight to prove he had nothing to do with Bitcoin after months of news media hassle interrupting his ability to go about his life as a normal citizen.
Some say that the real Satoshi Nakamoto actually spends his time writing snarky articles about Bitcoin and likes to stoke the fire by talking about how much of a mystery it still is. I couldn’t possibly comment on that, though.
… but he’s worth a lot
Mysterious or not, Satoshi’s existential crisis hasn’t stopped him or her from cranking up some serious net worth over the years. Current estimates put Satoshi’s Bitcoin assets at a value of $4.7 billion.
I’m not jealous. My hands always shake like this.
Who’s paying the pizza guy?
The first ever transaction conducted via Bitcoin, outside of testing and core staff members, was carried out by Laszio Hanyecz back in May 2010. He splashed out and bought a whole two pizzas, which came in at around 10,000 Bitcoins at the time.
Know how much a single coin is worth at the time of writing this article? Just shy of $10,000.
To be fair, though, I’d still happily spend $100,000,000 on pizza.
Only so much to go around…
Part of Bitcoin’s philosophy and design is that it should differ from traditional financial practices in a number of ways and part of its de-centralized ethos means that no one country’s financial institutions or policymakers have control over the creation of the currency like a traditional mint would.
Bitcoins are actually designed to be a finite number – there will only ever be 21,000,000 coins ‘mined’. There is a complex algorithm at work, however, that keeps this number at bay.
Essentially, the number stems from a formula which takes an initial ‘block reward’ for mining (50 coins), the target blocks that can be mined per hour and then an artificial halving period (four years).
Every four years, the reward will be halved, continuously, meaning the maximum number will become more difficult to reach as time goes on. But it does eventually culminate in 21,000,000… in the year 2140.
The distribution issue
Owing to the fact that it takes an insane amount of computing power (essentially an industrial-scale farm of machines, these days) a fair chunk of the current Bitcoins in existence are owned by a relatively small number of people. Remind you of any economic trends?
It’s estimated that around 1,000 Bitcoin ‘addresses’ make up for approximately 34-35% of current coins.
I guess some things never change, crypto or not.
Bitcoin is the currency of space
Well, sort of. I don’t know if extra-terrestrials would have the computing power to start trading with us.
Back in 2016, Genesis Mining (a cloud-based Bitcoin mining company) had a 3D ‘coin’ model created and then attached both it and a Bitcoin wallet to a weather balloon.
Once the balloon had reached around 20km up (beyond the altitude that humans can survive without a pressure suit) the company sent a single Bitcoin to the wallet.
In the end, the balloon actually made it to 34km and the team sent another coin to the wallet. A playful stunt that reflects the cryptocurrency communities’ aspirational cry of ‘to the moon!’ with regard to Bitcoin’s future prospects.
You can go to space too!
One day. Maybe.
Virgin Galactic, the company currently at the forefront of recreational space travel announced that they will be accepting Bitcoins as a form of payment.
To the moon, indeed.
The FBI are in on it
It’s thought that the FBI alone own around 1.5% of the world’s Bitcoin figure.
I suppose they had to find some way to pay that paranoid wreck, Mulder, his wages.
You’re in charge. For better or worse.
One of the most attractive things about Bitcoin is the fact that it allows you to be your own bank. You need no permission from authorities to send or receive Bitcoin and it allows you to make secure, untraceable transactions to anyone, anywhere in the world – no third party needed.
That’s a lot of power. And with great power, comes great responsibility. And personal responsibility is something many of us aren’t accustomed to.
Which is why and how Bitcoin has led to some pretty unique mistakes, like the case of the multi-million dollar landfill.
If you’re at all interested or involved in the cryptocurrency scene, you’ll know all about the upsetting tale of James Howells – and, hopefully, you’ll have learnt a valuable lesson from this cautionary tale too.
James had been interested in Bitcoin in its earlier days and had done some trading and accumulating of his own. Unfortunately, after a mishap with a drink and a spoiled computer, he mothballed his hard-drive and stuck it in a drawer somewhere, forgetting about the 7,500 Bitcoins he had stored on it.
A few years later, he tossed the drive in a bout of spring cleaning…It dawned on him later and he had a dark night of the soul moment on the edge of a Welsh landfill. Towers of mouldering trash hiding his hard drive, worth millions and millions of dollars.
Brings a tear to the eye, huh?
When it’s gone, it’s gone
Due to the insane security around a user’s Bitcoin wallet – if you lose your keys or, like poor James, the machine containing your details, then there’s no way to gain access to your Bitcoins again. Interestingly, any user (if they know another’s Bitcoin address) can see how much another owns, but they cannot access your wallet unless they know your information.
So, losing your all-important digital key is like being locked out of your car. Only, you can’t break the window to get in and that sucker will only increase in value as time goes on. No matter how much you claw at the door handle.
We talk a lot of the computing power needed to run your own Bitcoin mining machine, but few people realize that the combined electricity running the Bitcoin network could power around 2.26 million American homes.
I’d hate to miss that utility bill.
Everything is logged
Although Bitcoin is highly protective over personal data (and, indeed, so are many of its users – a number of Bitcoin millionaires refuse to give out their real identities out of fear of being targeted for scams or theft), it is admirably transparent when it comes to logging all transactions carried out with the currency.
Bitcoin’s block chain shows every purchase and trade that occurs with the cryptocurrency which has done wonders to grant the service credibility among the more conventional financial institutions and wary public.
In fact, it’s owing to this transparency that the authorities were able to crack down on the infamous Silk Road marketplace, and in so doing, gave Bitcoin a more acceptable face.
No cold feet allowed
A more ride-or-die aspect of Bitcoin is that there is no way to take back or refund a transaction once you’ve handed over your coins to a company or other user. What’s done is done.
It’s hoped that this not only cuts down on the scope for scamming users, but also that it instils a higher degree of responsibility upon Bitcoin holders – you’ll be less laissez faire with your money if you know there’s no takebacksies, right?
Money’s for havin’ not for spendin’
It’s thought that around two thirds of the total number of Bitcoins currently in existence have never been, nor ever will be, used in any transactions. This is means that a staggering amount of the cryptocurrency’s economy is resting in its users accounts, simply increasing in value (or not, as the case may be) as the markets rise and dip.
It’s worth remembering that most people still use or view Bitcoin as a new stock-market type experience rather than an actual form of payment, but that is slowly changing as the public and some nation states are starting to wake up to the possibilities.
It’s not all sunshine
You’ll often hear of the optimistic forecasts for Bitcoin’s future value, especially with all this talk of hard forks (as opposed to floppy spoons), but the cryptohistory hasn’t always been plain sailing.
Perhaps the most notable crash in the Bitcoin market was created by the notorious Mt. Gox trading network which was hacked by a user who drained the value of Bitcoin at the time by effectively sending gargantuan amounts of the currency to himself.
The value was quickly saved, and the blip over with…Until it happened again a few years later. The owner of Mt. Gox, Mark Karpelès, has since been charged with a litany of crimes, including embezzlement, and is unable to leave Japan these days.
Make of that what you will.
Sh*t Load of Money!
One of, if not the, biggest Bitcoin transaction happened back in 2013 when someone moved 194,993 Bitcoins (which was valued at around $147 million total at the time) in a single trade. The transaction was tagged, and thus is now known as: “Sh*t Load of Money!”
Nobody really knows who was involved, but of course that kind of mystery is the cryptocurrency world’s bread and butter. It wasn’t long before old Satoshi Nakamoto was the leading man in most theories, seeing as some of the codes were dated as early as 2010.
Random Darknet Shopper
For my money (traditional and crypto), this has got to be one of the most interesting peculiarities connected with Bitcoin to date.
An online shopping bot was designed in 2014, fittingly titled the Random Darknet Shopper. This bot is given an allowance of $100 worth of Bitcoins per week, which it then spends on a completely random product sourced from deep web markets (currently using Agora).
These products are then automatically shipped to an exhibition space where they are presented for visitors to ogle.
Given the shady goings-ons in a lot of deep web markets, this is both a fascinating cultural event and a risky shopping experience…
Every ten minutes…
A new block of Bitcoins is successfully mined every ten minutes! Although this time-frame was artificially written into Bitcoin’s code, you can still see the need to half the reward value every four years to keep the currency prospering.
In the amount of time it’s taken me to proof-read this article, another twenty blocks have been solved!
What? I’m a s l o w r e a d e r.
Remember the Spice Girls? Well, if you don’t, that might go some way to explaining why former Spice Girl Mel B was the first musical artist to publicly accept Bitcoin as a form of payment for her music. Either she’s an incredibly tech-savvy artist, or it was a case of any port in a storm.
Joking! Girl Power and all that.
Liberland embraces the future
I’ll leave you with one of the more game-changing facts in recent memory.
‘Micronation’ Liberland, located between Croatia and Serbia, became the first nation to embrace Bitcoin to such an extent that President Vít Jedlička announced it as a reserve currency!
You really couldn’t make it up.