Bitcoin was the name when people got to know about the term blockchain. The very first-time blockchain came into the scenario is when Satoshi Nakamoto released Bitcoin Paper in 2008 and bitcoin Software in 2009. The invention of Bitcoin clearly was an important piece of work and provided ground-breaking advances in peer-to-peer computing. However, like many innovations, Bitcoin built on earlier work, which is often overlooked.
Let’s start with the main idea of linking blocks of data cryptographically.
Digging into some history!
In 1991, Stuart Haber and W. Scott Stornetta invented the blockchain. This happened 17 years before the release of the Bitcoin paper. an academic paper published the main idea behind cryptographically linking blocks in an append-only data structure. The work focused on timestamping documents, a popular use case for blockchain technology, even today. Many businesses use a public blockchain system to notarize documents. By storing hash values in a timestamped block on the blockchain, one can prove that a document existed at a certain time in a certain version. This has many applications, ranging from registering intellectual property rights to contract arbitration.
Haber and Stornetta’s paper proposed calculating hash values of documents and saving them with a timestamp. The records are linked up in a data structure by including hashes of previous records’ certificates. Apart from the use of hashes to verify the integrity of data, the timestamping protocol also makes use of private key signatures to sign submitted data. Does this sound familiar? Yes, it’s exactly how Bitcoin and subsequent blockchains sign transactions and append records to the chain.
Whoever wrote the original Bitcoin paper did not “steal” this idea, in fact, Bitcoin paper has cited Haber and Stornetta three times. This indicates some knowledge of the common academic practice of the author.
The best way to innovate is to build on existing knowledge. Satoshi Nakamoto was clearly a knowledgeable expert in his field, being aware of relevant previous work and building expertly upon it. Bitcoins add an incentive layer and proof of work consensus to the blockchain data structure. These additions have made the blockchain truly decentralized and have solved the double-spending problem, giving rise to cryptocurrencies.
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