Cryptocurrency is relatively new yet was shaped by ideas and innovations introduced decades ago. To better understand the forces that led to cryptocurrency, read our list of significant developments, developers, and digital events through the 1990s. These serve as crypto milestones which shaped the crypto industry into what it is today.
The World Before Bitcoin
- 1972: The first public demonstration of the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network computer network, the Internet’s precursor, occurs. The ARPANET wows attendees at the International Computer Communication Conference. Email was introduced that same year, yet didn’t prompt the mixed feelings it does today.
- 1982: David Chaum publishes “Blind Signatures for Untraceable Payments.” His six-page paper describes a “new kind of cryptography” that offers untraceable payment systems with increased personal privacy.
- 1989: Chaum launches the digital currency eCash. Today, eCash is recognized as one of the earliest electronic cash systems.
- 1989: Quantum Link changes its name to America Online, beginning a strange addiction to the phrase: “You’ve got mail!” Email fatigue is still a thing of the future.
- 1990: Tim Berners-Lee rolls out the World Wide Web, meaning: the first web server, the first web browser, and the first (uber-basic) website. Eventually knighted, Sir Tim Berners-Lee later admitted that the two forward slashes in web addresses are “unnecessary.” Most of the world lets it slide.
- 1993: Hal Finney, computer scientist and privacy advocate, shares ideas about digital cash and privacy and detecting double spending that will influence the development of Bitcoin.
- 1994: Chaum sends the first electronic cash payment over computer networks during his keynote at the “First International Conference on the World-Wide Web.” Wired Magazine calls him “indisputably the pioneer of the [digital cash] field.”
- 1995: Future crypto-influencer Elon Musk is not hired by Netscape Communications. He later lands on his feet.
- 1996: The Cryptology Division of the National Security Agency Office of Information Security Research and Technology, publishes “How to Make a Mint: The Cryptography of Anonymous Electronic Cash.” Much of what they describe foreshadows Bitcoin–though the NSA paper suggests that third-party authentication will be a requirement for such a system to work.
- 1997: Adam Back invents Hashcash, a proof-of-work algorithm, to combat email spam and denial-of-service attacks. It became a key component of Bitcoin.
- 1998: Nick Szabo conceives of bit gold as “a money of unprecedented security” against threats such as counterfeiting, theft, and inflation. Never implemented, bit gold first leveraged the proof-of-work algorithm for cryptocurrency purposes. Bitcoin would follow in its footsteps.
- 1998: Wei Dai proposes B-money, a protocol allowing “untraceable pseudonymous entities to cooperate with each other more efficiently, by providing them with a medium of exchange and a method of enforcing contracts.” Like bit gold, B-money never launched but foreshadows Bitcoin.
- 1999: The euro is introduced as the official currency of some parts of the European Union. For the first three years, the euro was “an ‘invisible’ currency, only used for accounting purposes and electronic payments.”
Tune in for part two when we’ll shine a spotlight on the crypto milestones of the 21st century when Bitcoin came to be!
What other noteworthy moments should we include? Let’s hear about them in the comments!
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