Introduction

On 17 December 2017 one bitcoin was worth $19,783.06. Its worth grew to this from roughly $900 in just 11 months, while ‘bitcoin’ was the second most searched term in Google’s news section that year. Although the cryptocurrency bubble has now popped, a single bitcoin was still worth nearly $5,000 as of April 2019. While its future as a regular payment method remains unclear, it seems inevitable that the underlying technology – blockchain – will find many applications in the near future.

Background

A blockchain is a growing list of records, called blocks, which are linked using cryptography. The birth of blockchain is often incorrectly linked to Satoshi Nakamoto’s 2008 white paper “Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System”. While he made the term popular, the idea behind it is older. Nakamoto cites Stuart Haber and W Scott Stornetta’s 1991 paper “How to Time-Stamp a Digital Document”, a method that is still widely applied to blockchain technology. Stornetta and Haber chained hashed time stamps and used the two underlying technologies behind blockchain – hash functions and linked (chained) lists.

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