Seven years ago today, legendary computer programmer and recipient of the very first Bitcoin transaction, Hal Finney, died as a result of ALS.
Finney worked as a video game developer and then as a developer for PGP Corporation, an early provider of public key cryptography software. He was also an active member of the Cypherpunks mailing list and created the world’s first reusable proof-of-work (RPOW) system in 2004, a variation on the proof-of-work system that would later define Bitcoin.
But Finney is probably best remembered by Bitcoiners for his early discoveries about how revolutionary the project could be. As our Aaron van Werdenum reported last year, Finney was one of the first members of the cryptography mailing list to see its potential.
“Bitcoin seems like a very promising idea,” he wrote in 2008, replying to an email Satoshi Nakamoto sent to the list that shared the Bitcoin whitepaper. “I like the idea of basing security on the assumption that the CPU performance of honest participants outweighs that of the attacker … I also think that some form of forgery-proof token whose production rate is predictable and unaffected has potential value. “From corrupt parties.”
Finney worked regularly on the project, becoming one of the first bitcoin miners in the world, helping with technical input and, notoriously, receiving the first bitcoin transaction directly from Nakamoto.
On January 10, 2009, Finney tweeted a simple message that has since become a favorite in the Bitcoin community and has garnered more than 31,000 likes and 15,000 retweets to date: “Running Bitcoin”.
That year, Finney was diagnosed with ALS and the disease soon confined him to a wheelchair, eventually crippling much of his body. Even so, he used eye tracking software to keep writing bitcoin code.
“Today I am virtually paralyzed. I am fed through a tube and my breathing is assisted by another tube, ”Finney wrote on March 19, 2013, just 17 months before his death, in the Bitcointalk forum. “It’s been a change, but my life isn’t that bad … I still love programming and it gives me goals … I’m happy with my legacy.”
Although Bitcoin was conceived as a system free from the influence of a single leader, Finney remains one of its most famous and revered personalities. His foresight, optimism, and passion for creating a digital form of cash continue to inspire all of us who believe that if Bitcoin fixes money, it can fix the world.
To celebrate Finney’s legacy, we’ve rounded up Bitcoin Magazine’s best stories about the groundbreaking cryptographer. On this day, more than any other day, it is worth remembering your contributions.