When Nakamoto’s paper came out in 2008, trust in the ability of governments and banks to manage the economy and the money supply was at its nadir. The US government was throwing dollars at Wall Street and the Detroit car companies. The price of gold was rising. Bitcoin’s chief proselytizer, Bruce Wagner, at one of the few New York City restaurants that accept the currency. Photo: Michael Schmelling Nakamoto himself mined the first 50 bitcoins—which came to be called the genesis block—on January 3, 2009.
For a year or so, his creation remained the province of a tiny group of early adopters. But slowly, word of bitcoin spread beyond the insular world of cryptography. It has won accolades from some of digital currency’s greatest minds. The small band of early bitcoiners all shared the communitarian spirit of an open source software project. 50 and created a site called the Bitcoin Faucet, where he gave them away for the hell of it. Laszlo Hanyecz, a Florida programmer, conducted what bitcoiners think of as the first real-world bitcoin transaction, paying 10,000 bitcoins to get two pizzas delivered from Papa John’s.