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What Is Bitcoin, How Is It Different Than "Real" Money and How Can I Get Some?
Bitcoin is a virtual currency. It does not exist in the physical form in which the currency and coin in which we are accustomed exists. It doesn’t even exist in as physical a form as Monopoly money. They are electrons – not molecules.
But consider how much money you personally manage. You get a paycheck that you take to the bank – or it’s automatically deposited without you even seeing the paper it’s not printed on. You then use a debit card (or checkbook, if you’re old school) to access those funds. At best, you see 10% as cash in your pocket or wallet. So it turns out that 90% of the funds you manage are virtual – electrons in a spreadsheet or database.
But wait – these are US funds (or those from whatever country you’re from), safe in the bank, and backed by the full faith of the FDIC up to about $250,000 per account, no. is this not ? Well, not exactly. Your financial institution may be required to keep only 10% of its deposits on deposit. In some cases it is less. It lends the rest of your money to other people for up to 30 years. He charges them for the loan and charges you for the privilege of letting them lend.
How is money created?
Your bank creates money by lending it.
Let’s say you deposit $1,000 with your bank. They then lend $900. Suddenly you have $1,000 and someone else has $900. Like magic, there’s $1900 floating around where before there was only a grand.
Now suppose your bank lends 900 of your dollars to another bank instead. This bank in turn lends $810 to another bank, which then lends $720 to a customer. Poof! $3,430 in an instant – almost $2,500 created out of nothing – as long as the bank follows your government’s central bank rules.
The creation of Bitcoin is as different from the creation of bank funds as cash is from electrons. It is not controlled by a government’s central bank, but rather by consensus of its users and nodes. It is not created by a limited mint in a building, but rather by distributed open source software and calculations. And that requires a form of real work for creation. More information on this shortly.
Who invented BitCoin?
The first BitCoins were in a block of 50 (the “Genesis Block”) created by Satoshi Nakomoto in January 2009. It didn’t really have any value at first. It was just a cryptographer’s toy based on an article published two months earlier by Nakomoto. Nakotmoto is an apparently fictitious name – no one seems to know who he or she is/are.
Who keeps track of all this?
Once the Genesis block was created, BitCoins have since been generated by doing the job of tracking all transactions for all BitCoins as a sort of public ledger. The nodes/computers doing the calculations on the ledger are rewarded for it. For each set of successful calculations, the node is rewarded with a certain amount of BitCoin (“BTC”), which are then newly generated in the BitCoin ecosystem. Hence the term “BitCoin Miner” – because the process creates new BTC. As the supply of BTC increases and the number of transactions increases, the work required to update the public ledger becomes increasingly difficult and complex. As a result, the number of new BTCs in the system is designed to be approximately 50 BTCs (one block) every 10 minutes, worldwide.
Even though the computing power for mining BitCoin (and for updating the public ledger) is currently increasing exponentially, the complexity of the mathematical problem (which, incidentally, also requires a certain amount of guesswork), or “evidence” necessary for exploitation. BitCoin and settle the transactional books at any time. Thus, the system still generates only one block of 50 BTC every 10 minutes, or 2106 blocks every 2 weeks.
So, in a sense, everyone keeps track of it – i.e. all nodes in the network keep track of the history of every BitCoin.
How many are there and where is it?
There is a maximum number of BitCoin that can be generated, and that number is 21 million. According to the Khan Academy, the number is expected to peak around the year 2140.
This morning there were 12.1 million BTC in circulation
Your own BitCoin is kept in a file (your BitCoin wallet) in your own storage – your computer. The file itself is proof of how many BTC you own and it can move with you on a mobile device.
If this file with the cryptographic key in your wallet is lost, so is your BitCoin fund supply. And you can’t get it back.
How much is it worth?
The value varies depending on what people think it’s worth – just like in the exchange of “real money”. But because there is no central authority trying to keep the value around a certain level, it can fluctuate more dynamically. The first BTCs were worth next to nothing back then, but those BTCs still exist. As of 11 a.m. on December 11, 2013, the public value was US$906.00 per BitCoin. When I finished writing that sentence, it was $900.00. Around the beginning of 2013, the value was around US$20.00. On November 27, 2013, it was valued at over US$1,000.00 per BTC. So it’s a bit volatile at the moment, but we expect it to stabilize.
The total value of all BitCoin – at the end of this sentence – is approximately US$11 billion.
How can I get it?
First, you must have a BitCoin wallet. This article contains links to get one.
Then one way is to buy some at another private party, like these guys on Bloomberg TV. One way is to buy some on an exchange, like Mt. Gox.
And finally, one way is to put a lot of computer power and electricity into the process and become a BitCoin miner. This is well outside the scope of this article. But if you have a few thousand extra dollars lying around, you can get a whole rig.
How can I spend it?
There are hundreds of merchants of all sizes that accept BitCoin as payment, from cafes to car dealerships. There is even a BitCoin ATM in Vancouver, BC to convert your BTC to cash in Vancouver, BC.
Silver has a long history – millennia. A fairly recent legend tells us that Manhattan Island was bought for wampum – shells and the like. In the early years of the United States, different banks printed their own currency. On a recent visit to Salt Spring Island in British Columbia, I spent some currency that was only good on the beautiful island. The common theme among these was a trust agreement among its users that this particular currency had value. Sometimes this value was directly related to something solid and physical, like gold. In 1900, the United States linked its currency directly to gold (the “Gold Standard”) and in 1971, it ended this link.
Now, currency is traded like any other commodity, although the monetary value of a particular country can be supported or decreased by the actions of its central bank. BitCoin is an alternative currency that is also traded and its value, like that of other commodities, is determined by trade, but is not retained or diminished by the action of a bank, but rather directly by stocks. of its users. Its supply, however, is limited and known, and (unlike physical currency) so is the history of each BitCoin. Its perceived value, like any other currency, is based on its usefulness and trust.
As a form of currency, BitCoin isn’t exactly new to creation, but it’s definitely a new way to create money.
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