A Simple Plan
The True Origin of Bitcoin with Mark, Oliver, Tex and Oscar
Another day, another dollar. Working a dead-end job is so normal now that it's seen as uncommon to have dreams and aspirations these days. Sad times. I pulled my ill-fitting, ugly uniform on for what felt like the millionth time. I had worked there for 16 years, yet never managed to save enough money to do anything I had wanted to in my younger years. Like going on holiday, buying a house, buying a nice car. I looked around my small, expensive rented apartment, how depressing. Reflecting, my time is quite easily split into 3 clear activities, work, sleep and computers. Then the next month, repeat... for 16 years.
I should really make some changes, but who has time for that.
The work day went slowly, as usual, mindless zombies carrying out the same daily duties they've done for years, barely acknowledging each other. If only I could catch a break. If only I won the lottery. If only I had a better job. If only I had a nicer home. Repeating these affirmations on a daily basis is maybe why I am stuck in a dead end job, home and life. Who cares, I know I'm not alone, millions of people around the world wake up and say the same thing every morning. It's nothing new.
I clocked out and returned home. My computer would be waiting for me, my only solace, and the reason I probably haven't killed myself yet. There are always people online who care, no matter how hopeless real life is, your online life can be magical.
I log in to my social accounts and see my small group of friends. I know they have their own busy lives, but I like to imagine they are sitting at their computers all day, just waiting for me to finish work and log on. Truth is, they spend their days at dead end jobs too and probably feel the same about me.
We usually jump straight into a game, but tonight we started talking instead. Tex is a computer programmer, programming computers for multimillion dollar companies in return for pennies. He’s also a genius, but he downplays it to avoid attention. He hates his job, but loves the work. His name was Tyler, but he changed it on his 16th birthday as everyone had called him Tex since school, even his own mother.
Olly starts talking about living in a fantasy world where we write our own reality, it sounds perfect. How great would it be to write your own virtual life! Get yourself a mansion with an indoor swimming pool and, of course, a beautiful wife. Eat the very best meals, be driven around in a limo with your own personal chauffeur. If only.
Mark had been quiet while we had been procrastinating and dreaming of better lives, when we all heard an audible gasp. We all hushed and waited for an explanation.
He paused, seemingly thinking carefully about what he was going to say. "Why don't we write our own money?"
We all chortled at the idea, expecting him to join in. But he didn't.
"Tex, you’re a programmer, would it not be possible to write our own currency, give ourselves the future we want, not the one we've been given."
We were all quiet for what seemed like hours, though it was only minutes. Slight mumbling could be heard over the headphones, but nothing specific. Tex was thinking, we could all feel it while we waited, almost hearing the cogs powering round in his magnificent brain. We each pondered the future Mark had painted in our minds.
"I think I could do it"
The words cut through the silence finally. My pulse quickened, it felt like my heart was going to beat out of my chest. This idea was insane, was it not? We can't simply 'write' our own money? Can we? Why has no-one else done it? Was it even legal?
We discussed various theories of how we could create our own virtual currency. We had no idea where this was going to go, or if we would be successful.
"We need a name for the currency, a website location I can write the currency into and a method of extracting the currency. Then we need a virtual bank for holding the currency." Tex was in full-programming mode. We were not playing games tonight.
We spit-balled ideas for naming the currency all night, 'Virtual-Bucks', 'Magic Money' and 'Tex-Dollars' were amongst the ideas we came up with, but we would settle on the novel-sounding 'Bitcoin' in the weeks to come.
One thing we did all agree on, was that we should try to keep our identities anonymous. Tex didn't want the attention, and none of us wanted credit for what would be, primarily, his work. We were sure the powerful people in the world wouldn't be too happy about someone, or a group of people, creating free money. I came up with a Japanese sounding name, Satoshi Nakamoto, The 'MOTO' part coming from the initials of our names, (Mark, Oliver, Tex and Oscar) so we had a little inside joke snuck in there for if it all worked out.
The next few weeks were spent talking about nothing else. We played no games, our characters remained unlevelled and we missed hours of our usual evening pass times. It was invigorating to be focussing on something else though. To be working towards a promising future, filling our time with something exciting, instead of wasting each day on the same meaningless routines, going nowhere. Even work didn't seem as soul-destroying. Going in everyday gave me time to think by myself and plan ahead, gathering my thoughts for when we would catch-up later that evening. Our online sessions had become much longer, we all couldn't stand the thought of logging off and going to bed. Trying our mightiest to cram in as much as we could into each night, sometimes still talking into the early hours of the morning.
Tex had led the discussions from the start, he gave us the bare bones to build the idea into a magnificent legacy.
It was going to work.
We had finally created the website, the software and written the individual Bitcoin codes. It took months of hard work and perseverance, but we did it. It was all sitting there, at bitcoin.org. We debated the amount we would create, we had no idea how much value these Bitcoins would be worth in the real world. We could all but dream of the possibilities just now. Initially we were going to have B4,000, then we agreed on B400,000. Eventually we took a rather large step up and settled on B21,000,000. It seems like a random number, but what you don’t know is; we sat up playing blackjack that night, and Mark's sister was in the chat, and had just won table tennis tournaments. 21 was a commonly spoken about number that night.
We had also discussed and agreed upon the method of distribution and rewards for the time people would spend harvesting Bitcoin. We will be the virtual Robin Hood's of our time, although instead of stealing from the rich, we are just creating the money ourselves and making it available to anyone who can be bothered to harvest it. It would be selfish to keep it to ourselves, would it not?
We created a number of fail safes to aid the support of Bitcoin growing in popularity in the public eye. We made sure every single Bitcoin was traceable. We made a server that would log every Bitcoin transaction. Every time a Bitcoin was obtained, used, transferred, etc. We would be able to find it. We also have the kill code to wipe all Bitcoins, rendering all B21,000,000 useless. This is only a precaution, we hope never to have to use it.
The time has come to finally test harvesting our very own currency. Months of late night discussions, planning, hard work, endless hours in front of computers, tweaking, all come down to this night.
Will it work?
We have all booked tomorrow off work, got a crate of beer each, and have ensured no interruptions for the night ahead.
“Lets get on with it then, shall we?” Tex broke my train of thought.
“Are you sure it’s going to work, Tex?” Olly asked
“Ach, who cares. These last few months have been great fellas. I can’t believe what us four have managed to accomplish together, even if it doesn’t work, we’ve got some golden memories for life.” Mark was getting sentimental, I think he’s already made a start on his crate.
“Let's do this” I click on the link Tex has put in our group chat to our bitcoin website.
It seemed so primitive, so easy. It can’t possibly be this simple to get rich? Tex was the first to harvest a block of Bitcoin, it looked like a game. He was the first person in the world to receive 50 Bitcoins. The process was fairly simple, the codes worked without issue and the transaction to our virtual Bitcoin bank went smoothly. This was it. We laugh the night away, drinking merrily whilst discussing wild and wonderful ways to spend the money as we harvest blocks, watching our balance rise by the hour.
The next step was to make it available to the public and ensure our anonymity. Tex was all over it, we knew we could count on him. After all, he knows exactly what he’s doing, we’re just his cheerleaders who have a good idea once in a blue moon.
Six days after mining our first Bitcoin, we had the software ready to release to the public. Tex had spent hours pouring through the code, ensuring our identities were safe, whilst carrying out his final proof-read before the release. We were all anxious, much more than when we were testing it out ourselves. What if it crashes? What if it doesn’t work? What if it works too well? We still had the kill code for the Bitcoins, and could shut down the website in extreme circumstances.
Still, the butterflies wouldn’t stop.
It’s like taking your child to their first day of school. You want everyone to like them and be friends with them, but you know there will be bullies, there will be nasty people, there will be critics. You keep a big smile on your face, whilst holding back the tears that would expose your fears. You stay strong as you send your baby out into the big wide world, hoping it won’t swallow them whole and spit them back out.
My mind had wandered. Tex snapped me back.
“We’ve got one! Our first transaction! Someone has successfully harvested one of our Bitcoins!”
I looked at my screen and, right enough, 10 Bitcoins had been sent to our first user in the world's first Bitcoin transaction. This was the beginning of a legacy we could not comprehend.
We dedicated 2 nights a week to mining Bitcoin. There was a low buzz about it on certain forums, but you had to know where to look. Where we had always referred to acquiring Bitcoins as ‘harvesting’, the public had coined the term ‘mining’. It made it sound harder than it was, but it also made it sound like an adventure, just like in our online role-playing games where we would mine for in-game gold, here we are in real life, mining for Bitcoin.
Over the first year, the website grew steadily in popularity. The four of us had managed to acquire around B1,000,000 over our regular mining sessions. Thousands of people had spent time on our website, mining their own money. We had pages and pages of transaction histories. It was beautiful. The value of our Bitcoins was still insignificant and fluctuant. There was a main forum online where people would negotiate the value of their Bitcoin and transfer it in return for whatever was agreed upon.
Our Bitcoins were still not worth much in terms of real currency, but we have predicted that with the finite availability of Bitcoins, they can only appreciate in value. When they do, our hard work and efforts will pay off, and we shall retire happy men, knowing that we have made a difference in the world.