Ethereum & Bitcoin Education

A few months ago, I wrote a blog post about the blockchain and Bitcoin. Since then, I’ve been learning more and more about these two technologies that exist together and becoming more and more fascinated by. In this post, I’ll explain a little about the Ethereum blockchain network, the type of folks I met at a local Denver Bitcoin meet-up, and end with a brief description of the documentary movie The Rise and Rise of Bitcoin.

Whenever I come across a new technology I want to know more about, one of the first things I do is find people I know who already know something about it. Recently, I found an old acquaintance, Raine Revere, who is a programmer and is currently under contract with a cryptocurrency company called ShapeShift to build a smart contract on the Ethereum blockchain network. As I mentioned in my previous post, the blockchain concept has spread beyond Bitcoin and is finding new applications. With every new blockchain network that is created, a new type of cryptocurrency is created to incentivize people with computing power to record new blocks on the chain. Every time a new block is created, they get rewarded with newly minted coins in the cryptocurrency of that particular blockchain.

Ethereum has the ability to create “smart contracts” on its network, an interesting feature. The Bitcoin network executes bitcoin transactions (sending bitcoins from point A to point B), though it’s capability beyond that is limited. On the Ethereum network, you can create scripts that contain more advanced logic. A simple example would be that you can watch for a certain market indicator (like the DOW hitting 8,000) and then trigger the selling of an asset.

The Ethereum blockchain currency, called Ether, is the second largest in the world, with Bitcoin’s market cap exceeding it by a wide margin. As of May 12, 2016, Bitcoin’s market cap is a little over $7 billion, and Ethereum is at $822 million. You can check for the existing money supply and market cap for most cryptocurrencies.

This friend of mine who is writing a new smart contract introduced me to the Colorado Bitcoin Society Meetup. This is a meet up of people who have an interest in Bitcoin. I went to my first meet up at Southern Hospitality in Denver this past Monday. It is no coincidence that the restaurant accepts Bitcoin payment, as the manager is an avid bitcoin enthusiast and investor, I’m told. Most people there are not just interested in Bitcoin, they are passionate about it. Quite a few categorized themselves as Libertarians, and when we did introductions around the room many people expressed their opinion that Bitcoin is an avenue to remove oneself from the government and the centralized Federal Reserve. This is a common theme among bitcoin enthusiasts, you hear terms like “the separation of money and state”. It’s quite an interesting group.

At the meet up, I was told about a documentary called The Rise and Rise of Bitcoin. It is a very well done movie detailing the origins of bitcoin and telling the story through the rise, the fall in value, and then the second rise of bitcoin. It does not require any technical expertise to be able to completely understand and enjoy the movie. It does a good job of introducing the technology at a high level, discussing the potential social and economic impacts of bitcoin, weaving in the story of a few bitcoin startups, and telling the personal story of an early bitcoin miner. It is available on Amazon Prime, and can be found on iTunes.

In future posts, my plan is to share more of the things I’ve learned, and give some details on my small adventures into the world of Bitcoin.