Digital currency Bitcoins were in the news recently after James Howell, an IT worker from Newport, Wales, discovered that he had accidentally thrown out a hard drive containing 7,500 bitcoins -- now worth almost $8 million.
Howell obtained the bitcoins in 2009 for almost nothing. When he discarded his hard drive last July -- now buried in a Newport landfill the size of a soccer field -- the bitcoins were worth nearly $9,00,000. Today, the value of one Bitcoin has soared to over $1,000.
“Bicoins are wonderful idea of alternate money. Bitcoin is a digital money so no middlemen, no bankers make it more safer and convenient. All we have to do is solve complex mathematical problems,”explains Callmus Jones, one of the early miners of this crypto-currency.
What is Bitcoin?
Bitcoin is a decentralised peer-to-peer digital currency and payment network. But unlike traditional currencies, this one doesn’t have a reserve. Instead, Bitcoin relies on a sort of honour system, and is traded on the web. According to the Bitcoin website, Bitcoin is free from the highs and lows of inflation, interest rates and market fluctuations, and its value is determined by the number of bitcoins in circulation -- that number is capped at 21 million.
How does it work?
According to the Bitcoin website, “Bitcoin is nothing more than a mobile app or computer program that provides a personal Bitcoin wallet and allows a user to send and receive bitcoins with them.”
Bitcoins are typically bought through an exchange. The process involves setting up an account, then transferring funds into the account in order to start buying bitcoins. Bitcoins can also be exchanged in physical form through the Casascius coin, each of which is one digital Bitcoin.
Individuals can acquire bitcoins through:
Payment for goods and services
Purchasing them at a Bitcoin exchange
Exchanging Bitcoins with other individuals
Earning Bitcoins through competitive mining (a process whereby users create money through computing: users donate their computer power to Bitcoin so it can be used to solve complex mathematical problems required to validate transactions. When a problem is solved, bitcoins are issued).
The world’s first Bitcoin ATM went live in a downtown Vancouver shop in October this year, allowing people to exchange cash for the digital currency. Approximately 20 businesses in Vancouver now accept Bitcoin.
In November, British billionaire Sir Richard Branson’s commercial flight company Virgin Galactic announced it started accepting the