If you’ve been following the news at all, you’ve probably heard heard a lot about something called “bitcoin” lately. Typically it’s billed as a “virtual currency” or, less generously, as an “alternative payment system.” Stories about Bitcoin are usually accompanied by at least one of two other elements: 1)a breathless reference to how the “anonymous currency” is the new currency of drug dealers, arms traffickers, and other criminals; and/or 2)how a lucky few people who got in on the whole Bitcoin thing before it was cool are now discovering, thanks to the incredibly volatile Bitcoin market, that they’re Bitcoin Millionaires. If a pseudoanonymous, open source, distributed, global, virtual currency could be considered hip, Bitcoin is the new “It” coin.
Unfortunately very little of the buzz around Bitcoin actually takes the time to explain what the heck it is. How is it created? How do you get it? Where can you spend it? Is it really “money?” How the heck does the whole thing work? All in all, Bitcoin is more than a little mysterious.
Luckily there are people like Alexandra Berke out there who are able to bridge the gap between the tech-know-it-alls and the rest of us by providing a remarkably clear explanation of the inner workings of Bitcoin. In the first part of her two-part series “Bitcoin Demystified: A Hacker’s Perspective,” Berke lays out the basic vocabulary of Bitcoin, how Bitcoins are created, how you own them, how you spend them, and how the built-in features of the virtual currency virtually guarantee that it can’t be counterfeited. It’s a great primer for anyone who’s been confused about Bitcoin. Let’s just hope she writes part 2 soon!by