From Dial-Up to Blockchain
On a crisp clear Saturday in the fall of 1995, I was intently listening to my former schoolmate Brad Block, tell me with elated enthusiasm all about the new router he was installing in my first apartment on the Southside of the Ohio State University (OSU) campus.
“I am telling you Greg, this is the best of the best. It is the new 14.4 and you’re going to be able to connect to your email in like 1 or 2 minutes… tops!”
Brad had somehow convinced his father to give him enough money to start an internet provider service. To this day, I still have no idea how that all turned out for Brad. But hindsight tells us that he was way ahead of the curve. The “14.4” router he was referring to was a dial-up modem that could transmit 14,400 KB per second. This was cutting edge technology at the time.
My freshman year at OSU had a mandatory course that actually required us to set up our university email and send the instructor a message with it. The process of sending an email was cumbersome and time consuming but it was very exciting and with my new router I could “surf” the web and get free guitar tablature from websites where committed individuals had uploaded the cheat sheets. This was enough for me, and I was happy to have it.
Just three years later, Paul Krugman, famed economist, Princeton University professor, and NYT columnist would famously predict that by 2005 the internet would have no more impact on the economy than the fax machine. The internet’s effect on the world as well as the social and business relations that bind us together has been the single most important technological phenomenon in the past 75 years. You don’t need to be an acclaimed economist to see that. The internet is in everything we do, and no one can escape it. But how many people could see it like my schoolmate Brad could in 1995? Establishment intellectuals like Krugman could not see it.
There was endless FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt) in 2000 after the tech stocks burst. There were people claiming that the internet boom was a fad, a bubble, and that it would never recover…
In 2008 I launched my first website for a small music instruction company I had started the year before. I paid a couple of guys $500 to make a 3-page site for me that had a contact form where people could fill out their information and an email would be sent to me notifying me of the contact request. By 2009 the entire global financial system was collapsing and people everywhere were angry and scared. And somewhere, nestled in front of a computer, a genius who we now only know as Satoshi Nakamoto, was inventing Bitcoin. Because, according to the lore, he wanted to create a financial asset that globalists and people like Krugman could not interfere with. He wanted to create a system that could not be manipulated. He wanted the truth to be the truth, and not subject to interpretation by those with power.
Every single person on this planet is looking for two things: purpose and connection. Whether they know it or not, that is what everyone wants. “Who are my people and what are we doing together?”
The blockchain is a digital ledger that allows users of a network to record data in an immutable way. Cryptocurrencies are the means by which we facilitate the relationship between users and the block. The blockchain is the purpose, the reason we are doing what we are doing. We are recording data. Cryptocurrency is how we connect to one another on that network, on the blockchain. Purpose and connection.
For the past 13 years we have heard thousands upon thousands of experts tell us about how Bitcoin is a Ponzi scheme or a scam or a useless endeavor or whatever they say. And in those 13 years a single cryptocurrency on a single network has burgeoned into tens of thousands of cryptos on hundreds of networks. And yet we still hear the FUD. The never-ending complaining of establishment stalwarts like Krugman signing their own proverbial death certificates as they get the whole blockchain movement totally wrong.
Just like the internet is a part of everything we now do, so will be the blockchain. Every financial transaction, every medical record, every educational record, every piece of art, every photograph, every book, every magazine, everything will be on the block or connected to it through one cryptocurrency or another. You can choose to ignore this or try to hide from it or FUD it, but that won’t prevent it. The blockchain is technology and that cannot be stopped. No matter how hard those with power may want to maintain the systems that provide them that power, they cannot stop technology. And no matter how naive or just plain stupid people like Krugman are, they will not be able to change the cold hard truth of it all…
Blockchain is the future, and I am incredibly grateful to be sitting right in the middle of it, in this “1995 internet” epoch gleefully waiting to see how we go from a “14.4 dial-up router” to every single person on the planet carrying around a supercomputer in the palm of their hands able to connect to every other person in the world instantaneously. Because that is what is going to happen with blockchain, just like it did for the internet.
And those of us that are like Brad will have front row tickets to this next wild ride.