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The Origin of Blockchains



 

You may have heard the term ‘blockchain’ used a lot in the past year or two. And you may even have a vague idea of what it may be. But what is it, exactly? And what is the origin of a ‘blockchain?’ These are some of the questions we’ll be answering in this chapter. So, let’s start by understanding what a blockchain is.

What is the meaning of ‘blockchain?

Blockchain is a kind of technology that involves recording information in such a manner that it is challenging or impossible to hack or change it. And a blockchain, as we call it, is a digital ledger that records transactions in a chronological order. The information available on blockchain can be public, private or anonymous, depending on the needs of the user and the nature of the information. 

 

However, the blockchain is immutable, meaning that it cannot be changed or hacked. And this blockchain does not exist in any one particular physical space. Neither is the blockchain technology controlled by any specific authority. It is simply a chain of ‘blocks.’ And each block is a record of certain transactions that occur on the blockchain. 

 

Blocks need not always record transactions alone, though. All kinds of information can be stored in blocks. You can store data about currencies, intellectual property rights, digital rights, property titles, identity-related information and more. The data stored on a blockchain is encoded and decoded using cryptography, which is where the term ‘cryptocurrency’ comes from.

When did blockchain technology originate?

So, now that you have a basic idea of what a blockchain is, let’s take a closer look at the origins of this technology. The history of blockchain technology, as a concept, can be traced back to 1991. Here is a quick overview of the timeline from then till now.

 

Year What happened then?
1991 Stuart Haber and W. Scott Stornetta developed a system to store time-stamped documents cryptographically.
1998 Nick Szabo, a computer scientist, worked on bit gold, which was a kind of decentralized digital currency.
2000 Stefan Konst published a theory of cryptographic secured chains and put forth several of his ideas for implementation of the technology.
2008 A developer who went by the pseudonym of Satoshi Nakamoto released a white paper that laid out the concept of distributed blockchains.
2009 The concepts laid out in the white paper published by Nakamoto were implemented by the developer, leading to the creation of the first blockchain, which was the public ledger used to record transactions made with Bitcoins.
2014 Blockchain technology, which up until 2014 was mainly used for supporting digital currencies, grew in scope, leading to Blockchain 2.0, which refers to applying the technology beyond currencies.

Who invented the blockchain?

The timeline shown above should give you a fair idea of when the concept of blockchains as a technology took root in the world. As you can see, there is no single person who can be credited for inventing the blockchain, as such. The technology has been conceived, implemented and developed as a result of the collective efforts of many scientists, developers and people from various walks of life. 

 

Nevertheless, the pivotal point in the history of blockchains can be traced back to 2008, when the technology went from being mostly theoretical to being actually implemented by the pseudonymous Satoshi Nakamoto.

Summing up

Although blockchain has a history going back to the early 1990s, it is only in recent years that the technology is truly being embraced by businesses across various economic sectors. The growth of this new-age technology has been phenomenal in the past few years, and every day now, there are new developments happening in this field. In the upcoming chapter, we will try and understand where blockchains stand today.

A quick recap

  • Blockchain is a kind of technology that involves recording information in such a manner that it is challenging or impossible to hack or change it. 
  • It is simply a chain of ‘blocks.’ And each block is a record of certain transactions that occur on the blockchain. 
  • The history of blockchain technology, as a concept, can be traced back to 1991, when Stuart Haber and W. Scott Stornetta developed a system to store time-stamped documents cryptographically.
  • The pivotal point in the history of blockchains can be traced back to 2008, when the technology went from being mostly theoretical to being actually implemented by the pseudonymous Satoshi Nakamoto.



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