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Blockchain; Third Pillar of Digital

Updated on January 27, 2016
illustration: ben@teyka.com
illustration: ben@teyka.com

Computers; The First Pillar

A computer is a general purpose device than can be used to carry out arithmetic or logical operation through programming. Charles Babbage originated the concept of a programmable computer with his difference engine and later his analytical engine in 1833.

The first computers as we know them today, were conceived of in the 19th century and did not emerge in their modern form until the 1940's.

Just prior to World War II, digital computers were built using electromechanical electric switches that drove mechanical relays that performed a calculation.

These semi-mechanical computers operated slowly and were eventually replaced by all electric systems that used vacuum tubes.


P2P Networks

Hello decentralization.

A peer-to-peer network (P2P Network) is a type of decentralized network that is distributed in a way where individual nodes act as both senders and receivers. In this way, a task like searching for a file is shared among nodes (peers) on the network, where each node contributes resources and no central coordination is required.

Napster was the first in a long list of P2P services that ran into legal trouble and were shut down in the 1990's. It was possible to shut these networks down because in some cases they were centrally located or formally registered as companies.

BitTorrent is a protocol that incorporates P2P, but was designed to distribute large files over the Internet and is able to operate with lower bandwidth. It works in a different way than traditional P2P in that users can join a "swarm" of hosts and download and upload from each other at the same time.

BitTorrent employed the smarts of cryptography in the torrent descriptor at beginning of a node. Including this cryptographic hash increased security by preventing modification of portions of files, called pieces.

This was very important because as a user received a piece of a file, the user would also become a seed, or distributor of that piece.

Although there have been many lawsuits resulting from the engagement of copyright infringement through the use of BitTorrent, today, BitTorrent is used legally by media, entertainment, government, education, software companies, civilians and more. It is however also still used illegally.

The Internet; Web 2.0

Have you heard of the Internet? It's this thing that... well, it's a collection of... or, you know, it's...

The Internet is a global system of connected computer networks, or a network of networks. Since the early 1980's, the Internet has been talking shape. First used in academia, then statically by mainstream early-adopters, and eventually by the commercial mainstream.

Today the Internet is used by about a third of the global population.

The Internet is unique in that it has no central governing authority, though some think this will change in the future. You likely know that two spaces, IP addresses and DNS, are however controlled by ICANN.

Just before the Internet was commercialized, it was static. There was not a lot of interactive content available, but money changed that pretty quickly.

Web 2.0, a term coined by Darcy DiNucci in 1999, was an evolution in the way that web pages were made and ushered in an age where Internet users interact dynamically with web pages instead of just passively viewing content.

Video sharing, blogs, wikis, social networking, web apps and more comprised Web 2.0.

Further Consideration; BitCoin

You were enjoying the history. But to what did these inventions and occurrences ultimately lead? ("Ultimately" is a misnomer. Of course, the Internet and Web 2.0 have and will continue to evolve).

Computers led to networks, which led to the Internet, which led to decentralized networks.

In 2008, Satoshi Nakamoto invented a way to create a decentralized network that could achieve consensus without a controlling central authority – a solution to the byzantine problem. It was Bitcoin.

Today, money makes it real, and it surely is being taken seriously.

You won't be disappointed to learn about BitCoin, cryptocurrencies and decentralized networks. It is very likely that BitCoin will continue to be useful for many years. However, while it is possible a specific protocol may not endure these exciting and experimental times, the power that a decentralized networks' architecture unleashes for humanity is, in fact, undeniable.

Read up on BitCoin and how blockchains may change you life.

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