Published as a concept in November 2008 as a white-paper with the title “Bitcoin: a peer-to-peer electronic cash system” by Satoshi Nakamoto, the first fifty bitcoins (BTC) – also called the ‘Genesis Block’ or ‘Block Zero’ of the Blockchain – were subsequently mined in January 2009. Later that month, the first transaction occurred between Satoshi and Hal Finney, making the latter the second person to own some bitcoin.
The First Millenium (2009-13)
In October 2009, when Bitcoin received its first equivalent valuation in traditional fiat, its value was established as 1,309 bitcoins equaling a meagre $1. A few months later, May 2010 marked the first ever real-world transaction through Bitcoin when a programmer in Florida paid for two pizzas from Papa John’s using 10,000 BTC – we’ll leave it to you as a homework exercise to figure out what that approximates to at today’s value.
In 2010, Bitcoin began to come under the spotlight as illicit transactions involving both money-laundering and drugs began to draw attention to the currency.
It wasn’t until November 2013, however, that Bitcoin reached the symbolic-laden value of US$1,000, reaching a peak of $1,150 with US Fed chairman, Ben Bernanke, hinting that Bitcoin was here to stay.
The milestone was also marked by another development, the closure of Silk road – the illicit marketplace that was using bitcoin as payment which gave rise to the currency’s first congressional hearing, a subsequent price crash which took its value back to $450, all of which would help stimulate its growth in popularity among the Chinese.
Doubling Up (2013-17)
By December 2014, Bitcoin was being accepted as a payment mechanism by Microsoft for buying games and videos for the X-box.
From early 2015 through mid-2016, Bitcoin witnessed a slow but steady rise which culminated in its reaching its next millennial milestone, breaking through the $2000 cap which resulted in a substantial increase in Bitcoin mining activity in China with Japan now introducing its own legislation for dealing with the currency.
The Rise to $3,000 (May 2017 – June 2017)
By May 2017, several new alternate digital currencies, such as Ripple, began gaining traction of their own in Bitcoin’s wake, leading to a broadening of the cryptocurrency market. Ethereum’s pricing also began to take off.
Whilst it had taken four years for BTC to reach its first millennial milestone, and another four to reach its second, it took merely one more month for Bitcoin to reach $3,000 in June 2017 as Bitcoin and the rest of the crypto-currency universe which it underpinned began the Great Crypto Ascent of the Summer of 2017 which saw Cryptos breaking through a combined value of USD $100 billion.
$4,000 (June 2017 – August 2017)
August 2017 saw the first major fork away from Bitcoin – Bitcoin Cash – which, whilst not the first attempt at a hard fork that proposed perceived upgrades to the existing Bitcoin implementation, had nonetheless been perhaps the most successful to ‘challenge‘ the original Bitcoin, having surpassed its dedicated mining hash rates very briefly around November 12.
Despite the upcoming fork (or perhaps because of it), Bitcoin broke through the $4,000 mark. This sharp appreciation spurred concerns about the asset behaving like a classic “bubble”.
High Five (August 2017 – September 2017)
The “bubble” was embodied by an off-the-cuff remark by JPMorgan Chase CEO which went viral, and which was one in a long series of attacks on the cryptocurrency during a memorable September which included, amongst other things, a mass of Bitcoin limit sells as it hit $5000 first time, a ban on ICOs by China followed shortly after by a second announcement related to the closing of local BTC exchanges on Chinese territory.
It was an onslaught which brought the beleagured cryptocurrency back to $3000 yet it somehow managed to weather the storm, perhaps in part due to the SegWit (Segregated Witness) upgrade in August that allowed a higher turnaround time in transaction processing time by removing non-essential transaction data off-chain.
Sixing It (September 2017 – October 2017)
In September 2017, Bitcoin announced another hard fork, SegWit2x, slated for November 2017. Bitcoin reacts by climbing to $6,000, as investors bet on future gains from the scheduled split for November – likely in the hope that they could cash in the same way that many had during the previous high-profile fork (Bitcoin Cash) which essentially created value from thin air for existing bitcoin holders equivalent to 10% of their current holdings.
As a result, September’s series of hidings were quickly brushed off as the digital currency witnessed a fresh inflow of fresh funds from existing investors from within the Alt Coin space and new investors who were likely onboarded as a result of the high-profile media coverage of recent events. Trading volumes in Bitcoin far surpass that of other digital currencies. The month of October also marked another split in the currency, Bitcoin Gold.
Seven Up (October 2017 – November 2017)
By end of October 2017, the CME Group – the world’s leading derivatives exchange operator – announced its intention to introduce Bitcoin futures contracts some time towards the end of 2017 / early 2018. The development is anticipated to bring in a new wave of investors – institutionally backed – which set up Bitcoin for its next sprint to the $7,000 mark which it reached on the 2nd of November.
The Higher You Climb, The Harder You Fall?
2017 has been a monumental year for Bitcoin, as it has been for the rest of the cryptocurrency universe. Beginning now its first tentative brushes with $8k as of writing, some are forecasting a price heading towards $10,000 in the next six to twelve months.
It is, of course, impossible to say what the future holds – some have forecast a Bitcoin price of $1m further down the line. Others forecast a complete crash in the wake of possible state-backed crypto-currrencies emerging not too long from now.
Either way, Bitcoin continues to dominate – if not define – the crypto-currency universe and that may be just why it retains the kind of support to ensure its long-term durability. We shall see.