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Could Bitcoin have launched in the 1990s — Or was it waiting for Satoshi?

This year, Oct. 31 marked the 14th anniversary of the issuance of one of this century’s most consequential white papers — Satoshi Nakamoto’s “Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System.” Its 2008 publication set off a “revolution in finance” and “heralded a new era for money, one that did not derive its value from governmental edict but rather from technological proficiency and ingenuity,” as NYDIG celebrated in its Nov. 4 newsletter.

Many aren’t aware, though, that Satoshi’s nine-page white paper was met with some skepticism initially, even among the cypherpunk community where it first surfaced. This reluctance may be understandable since earlier attempts to create a cryptocurrency failed — David Chaum’s Digicash effort in the 1990s, for example — nor at first glance did it appear that Satoshi was bringing anything new to the table in terms of technology.

“It was technically possible to develop Bitcoin in 1994,” Jan Lansky, head of the department of computer science and mathematics at the Czech Republic’s University of Finance and Administration, told Cointelegraph, explaining that Bitcoin is based on three technical improvements that were available at that time: Merkle trees (1979), blockchain data structure (Haber and Stornetta, 1991) and proof of work (1993).

Peter Vessenes, co-founder and chief cryptographer at Lamina1 — a layer-1 blockchain — basically agreed: “We definitely could have been mining Bitcoin” in the early 1990s, at least from a technical perspective, he told Cointelegraph. The necessary cryptography was in hand:

“Bitcoin’s elliptic curve technology is mid-1980s technology. Bitcoin doesn’t need any in-band encryption like SSL; the data is unencrypted and easy to transfer.” 

Satoshi sometimes gets credit for establishing the proof-of-work (PoW) protocol used by Bitcoin and other blockchain networks (though no longer Ethereum ) to secure digital ledgers, but here too, he had antecedents. “Cynthia Dwork and Moni Naor suggested the idea of proof of work to combat spam in 1992,” added…


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