Was Bitcoin predicted in 1999?
where the cryptocurrencies before bitcoin?

Was Bitcoin predicted in 1999?


You might have heard about people predicting a world-currency or that economists have “predicted Bitcoin even before Bitcoin existed”. Is this because they had special powers or were there cryptocurrencies before Bitcoin?

Milton Friedman 1999 – his Bitcoin prophecy

were there cryptocurrencies before bitcoin

The well-known economist Milton Friedman 1999, said: “The one thing that’s missing, but that will soon be developed, is a reliable e-cash – a method whereby on the Internet you can transfer funds from A to B without A knowing B or B knowing A” (Interview 1999)

Another great example of a predictive super-power:

Neal Stephenson 1999 – cryptocurrencies Nostradamus

In the science-fiction novel “Cryptonomicon” from 1999, author Neal Stephenson predicted crypto currencies:

“What if you want to buy a sack of bananas?”

“Find a banana merchant on the Net.”

“Seems like paper money’d be just as good.”

“Paper money is traceable and perishable and has other drawbacks. Electronic banknotes are fast and anonymous.”

“What’s an electronic banknote look like, Randy?”

“Like any other digital thing: a bunch of bits.”

“Doesn’t that make it kind of easy to counterfeit?”

“Not if you have good crypto,” Randy says. “Which we do.”

“How did you get it?”

“By hanging out with maniacs.”

“What kind of maniacs?”

“Maniacs who think that having good crypto is of near-apocalyptic importance.”

[„Cryptonomicon“ SciFi novel from Neal Stephenson 1999]

How is this possible 😱? Did they really had a crystal ball?

Theories about the one-world super currency meme are around since world war II. It was a proposal of Keynes who came up with a “more robust” world currency called “Bancor”. Since then people are predicting the arrival of such a system.

What is with the people exactly describing a system like Bitcoin? Where there currencies similar to Bitcoin?

Is this Bitcoins evolution 🦖? Decentralized cryptocurrencies developed before Bitcoin:

A few schemes similar or related to Bitcoin originated in the Cypherpunk scene :

  1. The Mix-Network [Chaum 1981]
  2. “Security without Identification: Transaction Systems to Make Big Brother Obsolete” (David Chaum 1985)
  3. DigiCash – first anonymous digital money [Chaum and Company 1990]
  4. Proof-of-Work [Cynthia Dwork und Moni Naor 1992]
  5. Smart Contracts [Nick Szabo 1993]
  6. PGP [Zimmermann 1995] Data encryption for public communication
  7. B-money [Wei Dai 1998] Concept
  8. BitTorrent [Bram Cohen 2003]
  9. Hashcash [Back 2002]
  10. RPOW [Hal Finney 2004] Re-usable Proof-of-Work. Running software
  11. Bit Gold [Nick Szabo 2005 (1998 Idee)] Concept

This is how many people think that Bitcoin originated, but if this is really how it went, is questionable. In the first public version of the Bitcoin Whitepaper, there were no Cypherpunk technologies cited and no hints that Nakamoto was inspired by the Cypherpunk scene. Later, on the suggestion of Adam Back, did Nakomoto added some of these references. However, there were very similar systems to Bitcoin even before Bitcoin was invented. B-Money, RPOW and Bit Gold. However Nakamoto was probably not aware of the technologies.

The first digital currencies

As you might know: the development of cryptographic secured digital money started way earlier. How early?

The Big Bang of digital currencies

We could go back as far as electronic credit card systems are around. This would be the late 60s. When it comes to internet currencies, we find ourselves in the late 80s to early 1990s. One of digital-crypto cash´s pioneers was David Chaum.

The first thing was the invention of anonymous communication. In the next step, the crypto-activist community shifted its focus to money, because money could also be seen as a form of communication. However, compared to the bulk of the digital currencies and e-cash schemes of the 90s, the crypto-activist projects were rather few. The main driver for development was the first internet euphoria in the early 90´s and the internet boom in the late 90´s to early 2000´s

The first internet currencies

There were probably hundreds of projects and payment-systems. Only a few of them survived and became centralized cryptographic currencies like PayPal. The following table is an extended version of the great work of Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency Technologies Online Course (2015):

were there cryptocurrencies before bitcoin

Originally, PayPal was intended as a P2P-E-Cash for handheld PCs (comparable with the smartphones of today). Big companies like MicrosoftIBM and established payment-service providers like Visa and Mastercard, tried to invent a standard called SET (Secure Electronic Transaction). Microsoft had the vision of implementing an internet currency into the Windows95 browser. Others were more libertarian type system like digi-gold and e-gold (don’t confuse with Szabos Bit-Gold) or Liberty Reserve.

Is this the first Airdrop? 😂

“This is how it works: Download a free Mojo Nation "agent" and set it loose. The 2,000 users who are testing the beta version earn 1 million Mojo just for signing up, but new members can earn currency only by sharing what they already have -- unused computer power on their desktop.” - (Salon 2000)

Moo was using a Proof-of-Work scheme for minting tokens. They didnt used the tokens as money but as a internal currency to keep balance of file uploads. In P2P-filesharing systems there is the problem with "leachers" - people only downloading but never contributing, this is why they invented a decentralized token mint.

Beenz interview 1999 -They talked like us 

were there cryptocurrencies before bitcoin

 

"Nicholas De Santis: No. Beenz's idea is simple: for us, the Internet is a country, a new country with new people, for which we have created a currency. Surfing or browsing the Internet is what we consider work. You and I, we work for a company, we are paid in dollars or Deutschmarks and we buy things with the money. At Beenz, we think the Internet should be the same. We do what we call e-work and we get paid in Beenz. And we spend the Beenz on the Internet, just like money. So we're a new currency, just like the euro." (article originaly in German on heise.de)

some people call this proof-of-brain 🧠 these days 😅

Beenz aquired around 100 Million USD 💰 and was sold for an undisclosed sum. And of course it failed.

The NSA-Whitepaper from 1996

were there cryptocurrencies before bitcoin

“HOW TO MAKE A MINT: THE CRYPTOGRAPHY OF ANONYMOUS ELECTRONIC CASH” (NSA 1996)

were there cryptocurrencies before bitcoin

This paper was more a state of the art comprehension of what was possible at that time. It is based mostly on the research of Okamoto. Many important decentralized- and cryptographic technologies were invented by government organisations like the NSA and the DARPA:

  • the internet protocol
  • TOR or more correctly onion routing
  • The SHA-2 algorithm family

You might say now: "but those systems were mostly centralized and unlike bitcoin not based on Proof-of-Work"

actually Mojo, Karma and MicroMint/Payword were based on Proof-of-Work. They used PoW for token minting. The systems were P2P-based Filesharing Networks. The difference with Bitcoin is, that Nakamoto build the consensus mechanism around the hashcash algorithm aka Proof-of-Work.

You see it is not as if Bit-Gold was the only thing before Bitcoin - 🤷‍♀️ 🤷‍♂️

it wasn't even a running software. So it is very unlikely that any of the prophecies was actually a vision from the glass ball. P2P Internet-Currency was simply a big thing.

Also I highly doubt that bitcoin was intended as libertarian digital gold aka store-of-value

  • The title of the Whitepaper described a P2P-Ecash Scheme like all the ones above
  • The only reason Nakamoto made Bitcoin fixed supply in the first case was a technical:

„because I don’t know a way for software to know the real world value of things. If there was some clever way, or if we wanted to trust someone to actively manage the money supply to peg it to something, the rules could have been programmed for that."  (Nakamoto on P2P-Foundation)

Of course, there were no decentralized oracles and smart-contracts back then. The only positive think he saw in fixed supply was the positive feedback loop to bootstrap the adoption. But Nakamoto was also very naive about the scaleability-trilemma.

5-reasons why Bitcoin was not intended as store-of-value 👀

  • The white-paper was truly white (which means no ideology inside), otherwise it was a grey-paper
  • Nakamoto said for most transaction the banking system is sufficient but there are inefficiencies
  • The only thing people have is the time stamp in the Genesis Block (even though the financial crash was the topic of these days)
  • With the publication of the white paper in Nov. 2008 Nakamoto called the bottom of the crash
  • Nakamoto probably saw the crash as an opportunity (not the reason otherwise he would have foreseen the crash of 2008 way in advance)

The full article was originally published on my website.

What do you think? Is Bitcoin another failed P2P-Ecash or is recycling it as store-of-value really a solution?


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Do you still think Proof-of-Work was invented by Nakamoto and that it is a consensus mechanism? ... Platform-agnostic Crypto-research in the field of distributed computing/consensus and decentralization. Trying to bust the myths in the Crypto-scene.

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