Thursday, April 4, 2013

Article: My Bitcoin (Mis)adventure

They’re creepy, confusing, and skyrocketing in value. Who wouldn’t want to buy some bitcoins? Winston Ross checks out the online currency everyone’s buzzing about.

I first heard about the online currency known as Bitcoin on Monday, when a friend from Facebook who has the distinction of being the only person in my life ever to have punched me in the nose posted this, as his status update:

“Who out there (1) uses Bitcoin and (2) reads my status updates?”

I scored a 50 percent on that little quiz, which I have since learned is proof that I live under a boulder. I’m no Buzz Bissinger, but the idea that some newfangled way to spend money had come into being without me knowing about it was a huge shock, from which it took two full days to recover. On Wednesday morning, having finally yanked myself from bed/depression, I decided I would make bitcoin my bitch.

I’m late to this party, I know. Bitcoins have been around since 2009, and they’re booming. The price for a single coin jumped from $35 to $145 in the past month alone, and there are $1.6 billion worth of bitcoins in circulation worldwide. The whole point is basically to sidestep the banking industry—and government, for that matter. Which doesn’t seem like a terrible idea, at least not after seeing a bunch of people in Cyprus recently pulling money out of their banks before Big Brother could reach in and seize some of it to allay the country’s financial crisis.

Even now, I cannot begin to tell you exactly how the whole bitcoin system works, but I do know it’s virtual money, supposedly kept safe by a clever encryption scheme. People say the booming market for bitcoins is a bubble waiting to burst. I think bubbles are fun.

So I am now going to embark on a bitcoin spending spree, while writing about it in real time. This is history in the making, people.

First I need some bitcoins. But before I can even buy them, I need to download an app from the Bitcoin website called “bitcoin Qt,” which either means “bitcoin Cutie” or bitcoin Q.T. (as in, “quiet tip or “down low,” perhaps.) My computer refuses to recognize the app. Ten minutes and 35 increasingly furious clicks later, I finally get my computer to open the app.

Well that was reassuring, weird scammy cryptic online currency company. Now how do I buy the coins?

Bitcoin itself is no help at all. On the “how it works” page I have discovered the worst infographic in the history of infographics. There are three people-shaped shadows, one with a question mark on it, “you” in the middle, and a “friend” on the right. Then there’s a weird box with some ellipses and other random numbers like “1sd9” and it’s all called “The Blockchain (a shared public transaction log”). - Read more here:

1 comment:

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