The value of

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on­line. It was re­leased at a time of fi­nan­cial tur­moil when trust in banks was at an all-time low and gov­ern­ments in the US and UK had be­gun quan­ti­ta­tive eas­ing – es­sen­tially print­ing money to stim­u­late the econ­omy.

The price of gold was ris­ing as in­vestors looked for more sta­ble places to store their wealth. As an al­ter­na­tive cur­rency, Bit­coin re­quired no faith in the politi­cians or fi­nanciers who had wrecked the econ­omy.

Its pre­de­ter­mined re­lease of units kept sup­ply grow­ing at a pre­dictable rate. In the con­clu­sion to Satoshi’s pa­per, he refers to the soft­ware de­vel­op­ers as “we”, giv­ing rise to sus­pi­cions that Bit­coin was cre­ated by a group of peo­ple, who were hid­ing their iden­ti­ties be­hind the Satoshi pseu­do­nym.

The birth of a cur­rency

The first ver­sion of the Bit­coin soft­ware was re­leased in 2009 and only a few early adopters showed in­ter­est ini­tially. Ver­sion 0.1 was forWin­dows only. It was com­piled us­ing Mi­crosoft Vis­ual Stu­dio.

When an­a­lysed, the code be­hind the pro­gram was com­plex and well de­signed in some places and messy in oth­ers, lead­ing to spec­u­la­tion that Satoshi was an aca­demic with a lot of the­o­ret­i­cal knowl­edge but not much ex­pe­ri­ence.

He con­tin­ued to make mod­i­fi­ca­tions to the Bit­coin soft­ware and post tech­ni­cal in­for­ma­tion on the Bit­coin Fo­rum un­til his con­tact with the grow­ing on­line com­mu­nity grad­u­ally be­gan to fade. Al­most all mod­i­fi­ca­tions to the source code of the soft­ware were done by Satoshi – he ac­cepted con­tri­bu­tions rel­a­tively rarely.

As his in­ven­tion gained in­ter­est and trac­tion, devotees be­gan to spec­u­late on his iden­tity. Call­ing him sim­ply Satoshi, they built a cult around him and dis­cussed his true iden­tity on in­ter­net mes­sage boards.

Some­one noted that in Ja­panese Satoshi means “wise.” An­other spec­u­lated that the name was made by tak­ing let­ters from four global tech com­pa­nies: SAmsung, TOSHIba, NAKAmichi, and MO­TOrola. But it was doubt­ful that Satoshi was even Ja­panese. The English used in his first pa­per was pre­cise and the spell­ing and gram­mar sug­gested he was Bri­tish.

Other the­o­ries claimed that per­haps Satoshi was a sub­ver­sive group of work­ers at a com­pany or agency, such as Google or the National Se­cu­rity Agency.

Even Satoshi’s mo­tives re­mained spec­u­la­tive, al­though many be­lieve them to be po­lit­i­cal. In his first pa­per he crit­i­cised the bank­ing sys­tem and left a ref­er­ence to an ar­ti­cle in The Times about a UK govern­ment bank­ing bailout. Only once did his cold, busi­nesslike fa­cade drop, fol­low­ing calls for con­tro­ver­sial web­site Wik­ileaks to ac­cept Bit­coin do­na­tions.

A few days af­ter his un­char­ac­ter­is­tic out­burst, Satoshi dis­ap­peared as un­ex­pect­edly as he’d ap­peared, post­ing a mes­sage to say that he was “mov­ing on to other things”. Just be­fore he left, he set up soft­ware de­vel­oper Gavin An­dresen, 46, as his suc­ces­sor by giv­ing him ac­cess to the Bit­coin source code.

Sev­eral peo­ple have since an­a­lysed ev­ery speck of dig­i­tal data Satoshi left be­hind to try to un­lock the se­cret of his iden­tity. By look­ing at the time­frames dur­ing which he posted mes­sages, some be­lieve he lived in North­ern Europe. Oth­ers have ex­haus­tively run the phrases and words he used through Google to find sim­i­lar matches that might yield clues.

Sev­eral peo­ple have been named as likely con­tenders, but none have ad­mit­ted to be­ing the per­son be­hind the myth.

The mys­tery of Satoshi only fu­els in­ter­est in the cur­rency. De­spite its re­cent fall, ex­perts be­lieve it will re­gain value and be­come a fea­si­ble al­ter­na­tive to real-world money. Some even pre­dict that it may cause a global fi­nan­cial rev­o­lu­tion. Who­ever or what­ever Satoshi Nakamoto is, it’s safe to as­sume he’ll be watch­ing his cre­ation with in­ter­est.

the Bit­coin has var­ied wildly in its short life­span – from as lit­tle as 20 cents to a whop­ping $265

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