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Birth of a new Blockchain

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Birth of a new Blockchain

On July 30, 2015, a handful of people gathered around a screen in a small room in an office in Brooklyn, New York. They were about to witness the birth of a technology platform that two years later is beginning to change the world, and in the future may change it in ways that have not yet been imagined.

 

“The air was electric,” recalls Canadian author Alex Tapscott, who was there that day. “And not just because there was a thunderstorm looming on the horizon and we were getting flash flood warnings on our phones, but because there was this thing that a huge community of thousands of people had been spending two years building on faith, and this was the seminal moment when it was all going to go live. No one really knew what to expect.”

 

What they were watching was the birth of the Ethereum blockchain – essentially a global, peer-to-peer network of thousands of computers (known as ‘nodes’) – and they were watching it in the offices of Consensys, a company that has since gone on to ride the wave of innovation the Ethereum blockchain has set in motion.

 

The screen showed a map of the world. At around 11.45am, the very first block of the blockchain, the so-called “genesis block”, was created, and on the screen a red marker dropped on to the map over New York, signifying that was where it had been established.

 

“There was a lot of religious connotation in the moment,” says Tapscott. “I don’t want to overplay its Old Testament-like nature but it had a lot of that birth/rebirth feel to it.”

 

More red markers began to drop every few seconds, as new nodes became active around the world: in Toronto, London, Shanghai, Amsterdam… In Berlin, Dr Gavin Wood, one of the creators of the Ethereum blockchain, and then its CTO, was watching the same picture on a screen, together with many of the core founding team. With typical British understatement, he remembers the occasion in slightly less portentous terms.   “It was a very smooth-running occasion,” he says.

 

“It was so smooth, it was almost anticlimactic. We were looking at a screen and looking at the nodes on the network and it was really just detailing what number it was at. So of course it began at zero and we were able to see it go up to one and two and so on. There really wasn’t all that much to see. We stood around watching it for a minute or two, and then it was OK, job done, let’s have a beer.”