EXPLAINER: Bitcoin Turns 13 – A Look at Satoshi Nakamoto and the Genesis block

Its now 13 years ago since Satoshi Nakomoto mined the very first block of bitcoin transactions – now widely known as the Genesis block.

With bitcoin now a huge brand, the 3rd of January 2009 has become an important date in bitcoin history – some would even say in all history.

Even Melania Trump marked the anniversary on her Twitter

What is the Genesis Block?

First, a block is a record on the blockchain that contains and confirms many waiting transactions.

Currently, according to bitcoin.org, every 10 minutes, on average, a new block including transactions is appended to the block chain through mining.

Bitcoin mining is the process of making computer hardware do mathematical calculations for the Bitcoin network to confirm transactions and increase security. 

The bitcoin blockchain, a public ledger that records bitcoin transactions, is implemented as a chain of blocks, each block containing security information of the previous block up to the very first block on the chain – the genesis block.

The genesis block is therefore the first instance of transactions being mined. With no prior blocks linked to it, it has a height of 0 ( blocks are assigned a height based on the number of preceding blocks) making it block 0.

As a reward for their services, Bitcoin miners can collect transaction fees for the transactions they confirm along with newly created bitcoins. However, contrary to the information tracked by explorers, others contend that the 50 BTC reward ‘received’ for the genesis block does not count because they were not included in the blockchain.

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Who is Behind the Genesis Block?

The public address that recorded the block has no profile, but the Unknown node is widely believed to be owned by Satoshi Nakamoto, the pseudonym for the anonymous person(s) behind bitcoin.

A Summary of Satoshi Nakamoto’s profile on Bitcoin Forum

Nakamoto, who communicated on Bitcoin Forum, made some key contributions before walking away from the whole thing:

  • Began writing code for bitcoin in 2007
  • On 18 August 2008, registered the domain name bitcoin.org and created a website at that address
  • Published the bitcoin whitepaper on 31 August 2008
  • Released the maiden version of bitcoin software on 9 January 2009 and launched the network to the public

After the genesis block of 3rd January 2009, it would be six days later when the software could be run. Other than the whitepaper, the genesis block contains telling information about the motivations of Satoshi Nakamoto.

Understanding the Block

The block as we see it is a raw hex version of the genesis block as it appeared in a comment in the code for the bitcoin software, written on SourceForge, an web service for open – source software projects, by Satoshi.

The genesis block has the following revealing details:

  • 000000000019d6689c085ae165 – The hash of the genesis block, which was unusual at the time for having two more leading hex zeroes than were required for an early block
  • 1A1zP1eP5QGefi2DMPTfTL5SLmv7DivfNa – The address where the first 50 BTC block reward went to, but this reward can’t be spent because of the way the code is expressed, whether by design or accident. It is unknown if Satoshi Nakamoto has the private key for this particular address, if one existed at all
  • The Times 03/Jan/2009 Chancellor on brink of second bailout for banks – This was probably intended as proof that the block was created on or after January 3, 2009, as well as a comment on central banking. The block may also indicate that Satoshi lived in the United Kingdom
Headline on The Times newspaper on 3rd Jan 2009
Front Page of The Times on 3rd January 2009

The genesis block began the bitcoin network as we know it today, kickstarting a revolution in finance and a movement that is far much bigger than its founder. Satoshi stopped his involvment in bitcoin in 2010 being last active on the bitcoin forum on December 13, 2010.

However, he gave control of the source code repository and network alert key to Bitcoin Foundation’s Gavin Andresen, and transferred several related domains to various prominent members of the bitcoin community.




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