Bitcoins aren’t printed, like dollars or euros they’re produced by computers all around the world, using free software. The system enables payments to be sent between users without passing through a central authority, such as a bank or payment gateway. It’s created and held electronically.
Bitcoin was the first example of what we today call cryptocurrencies. A growing asset class that shares some characteristics of traditional currencies, with verification based on cryptography.
A pseudonymous software developer going by the name of Satoshi Nakamoto proposed bitcoin in 2008, as an electronic payment system based on mathematical proof. The idea was to produce a means of exchange, independent of any central authority that could be transferred electronically in a secure, verifiable and immutable way.
To this day, no-one knows who Satoshi Nakamoto really is. On 18 August 2008, the domain name bitcoin.org was registered. Later that year on October 31, a link to a paper authored by Satoshi Nakamoto titled Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System was posted to a cryptography mailing list. This paper detailed methods of using a peer-to-peer network to generate what was described as “a system for electronic transactions without relying on trust”.
In January 2009, the bitcoin network came into existence with the release of the first open source Bitcoin client and the issuance of the first bitcoins. With Satoshi Nakamoto mining the first block of bitcoins ever (known as the genesis block), which had a reward of 50 bitcoins.
Over the course of bitcoin’s history, it has undergone rapid growth to become a significant currency both on and offline. From the mid-2010s onward, some businesses on a global scale began accepting bitcoins in addition to standard currencies.