On January 3rd, 2009. Satoshi Nakamoto mined the very first bitcoin. Which was fitting, given that Satoshi is to Bitcoin as Alexander Graham Bell was to the telephone. The inventor had revealed the creation to a tiny online community of cryptography-obsessed computer scientists and hackers two months earlier. In that scene, Satoshi was already a familiar name — if not a real one. Years before the world heard a peep about Bitcoin, someone using the Satoshi pseudonym had been posting to message boards and emailing fellow developers, never identifying a location, a nationality, or even a real name. Satoshi released Bitcoin and saw it begin to catch on, and then — in April 2011 — sent an email to a developer friend saying, “I’ve moved on to other things.”
After that? Satoshi disappeared into thin air.
The question of the real identity of Bitcoin’s creator is one of the greatest modern mysteries. Who was Satoshi Nakamoto? Why that name? And where did Satoshi go? Beyond having invented an entirely new kind of money that has gone on to achieve a market cap of more than $1 trillion, Satoshi is widely believed to hold more than a million bitcoin, which would be worth tens of billions of dollars in March 2021.
What Satoshi said about Bitcoin ?
If Satoshi left clues, they can be found in the code and messages the crypto inventor wrote between 2008 to 2011. The entire output, numbering just a few hundred total messages that mostly consist of posts to a forum he created called Bitcoin Talk in 2009, has been meticulously cataloged like a sacred text. At this point, millions of people have pored over Satoshi’s words, but when they were first written they were mostly read by a few dozen hermetic members of the Cryptography Mailing List — made up of programmers who specialize in inventing techniques for secure communication. Many on the mailing list identified as “cypherpunks” who advocated the use of cryptography to bring about social and political change.
By his own account, Satoshi began coding the first version of Bitcoin in the C++ programming language sometime in the spring of 2007. In 2008, he shared his idea with a couple of fellow cryptographers who had launched the proto-cryptocurrencies b-money and Hashcash. Soon after, he shared his idea more widely via the Cryptography Mailing List.
Bitcoin was initially greeted with a collective yawn. “When Satoshi announced Bitcoin on the cryptography mailing list, he got a skeptical reception at best,” recalled legendary cryptographer Hal Finney, the first person to ever receive bitcoin from Satoshi. “Cryptographers have seen too many grand schemes by clueless noobs. They tend to have a knee-jerk reaction.”
Why Satoshi might want to remain anonymous ?
If the real Satoshi lives and breathes, there are some compelling reasons to stay hidden. The US government has a well-established track record of prosecuting individuals audacious enough to invent a competitor to the dollar. As The New Yorker reported, the FBI has declared it to be “a violation of federal law for individuals . . . to create private coin or currency systems to compete with the official coinage and currency of the United States.” In fact, federal prosecutors pursued a range of charges against the founders of a startup called e-Gold in 2007, claiming that their outfit didn’t explicitly prevent money laundering or other crimes.
Assuming Bitcoin’s creator is alive, Satoshi could be on track to becoming the richest human being on the planet. But there’s one more fascinating twist. Because the Bitcoin blockchain is open, it’s possible for researchers to plausibly identify much of the bitcoin Satoshi mined in the early days of his invention. After the very beginning, when Satoshi sent a few bitcoin to early testers like Finney, Satoshi’s coins seem to have never been sent or spent or capitalized on in any way. Over more than a decade, as the Bitcoin inventor’s holdings have grown to be worth potentially tens of billions of dollars, the share of money Satoshi quite literally made has sat untouched — a vast cache of so-called “lost coins” that could be in circulation but aren’t.
So who is Satoshi? One of the prime suspects? One of the many other people that have been identified as Bitcoin’s creator over the years? Someone nobody has ever suspected? Is Satoshi alive or dead? A single inventor or a team? As the years have passed it seems increasingly likely that we’ll never know the answers.
What we’re left with is Satoshi’s trillion-dollar creation, a small cache of communications, and maybe one final gift. “Lost coins only make everyone else’s coins worth slightly more,” Satoshi wrote, in response to a 2010 BitcoinTalk thread about users losing access to their wallets. “Think of it as a donation to everyone.”