As told to Ivy McLemore
The Origins of Bitcoin and My Pseudonym
I am Satoshi Nakamoto.
I always believed in freedom and liberations of the common man. That’s the reason I began my Bitcoin journey. But it’s ironic that I got trapped into something that I’d struggle to set myself free from.
It took me 8 to 9 years to understand and get the courage to fight myself and come out without this erroneous notion about what the world would think about the truth, as truth is always stranger than fiction.
My closest ally and mentor Hal Finney said in a March 2013 post on Bitcointalk “When Satoshi announced Bitcoin on the cryptography mailing list, he got a sceptical reception at best.” Which was absolutely true.
I was adamant that I would create history and I did. However, somewhere down the road I lost it. I forgot who I was and my fight wasn’t with anyone or anything else but with myself. I’m coming back now, not to prove anything to anyone else, but to prove something to myself. No one can defeat you unless you defeat yourself. Period!
The Origin of Bitcoin
Most people think my development of Bitcoin was just a fluke or something that was designed and happened overnight, but looking back I realise that this is not the case. Bitcoin was created through circumstantial requirements, but its current exposure cannot be attributed to design.
From creation to current maturity, Bitcoin’s trajectory has led me to hide and protect myself from my familial judgements, as I could not be attributed to something that at one point in its history had been declared illegal by some governments.
At its conception, Bitcoin was worth mere cents. Later, when its usage was hijacked for illicit means, I made decisions and set off a chain of events to create distance between my creation and myself.
Today, when Bitcoin is understood by the advances of technology, but at the same time is being hijacked by greed, I feel I have a duty to work hard and make my creation better and take its vision to the next level.
The events I’m about to disclose happened many years ago. I have recalled my memories, even the painful ones, as best to my knowledge. The following goes some way towards explaining this journey.
It all began in my childhood when I heard stories from my father about Agha Hasan Abedi, who founded United Bank Limited (UBL) in 1959. My father was a banker himself who worked at UBL for 27 years. He told me about how Abedi changed the banking industry forever. When Pakistan nationalised banking in 1972, Abedi founded the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI). At one time, BCCI was the world’s seventh-largest bank.
More than 1 million investors were affected when the Bank of England closed down BCCI in 1991 because of money laundering, bribery, smuggling and related scandals. I learnt how unfair BCCI’s demise had actually been and that its ending had been in the hands of brutal and dirty corporate world policies and general underhanded politics. Later in life, I realised there were some individuals within BCCI whose malfunctioned practices brought the whole bank down.
My Master’s Thesis
Whilst growing up, I became interested in cryptography, computational/quantum finance, and numerology. These later played a big part in the creation of Bitcoin. For my computer science master’s dissertation in 1999-2000 at a university I will identify later in “My Reveal,” I submitted a draft paper where I had researched DigiCash Inc., an electronic money corporation.
David Chaum, whose vision then seemed to have been ahead of its time, had founded DigiCash in 1989. DigiCash transactions were unique in that they were anonymous due to a number of cryptographic protocols. Although DigiCash had already declared bankruptcy in 1998 whilst I was still completing my master’s, the birth of Bitcoin through my research had already been seeded in my mind.
Upon submission of my thesis, my university felt that the contents were too advanced for marking and I resubmitted a paper instead about a simple web portal as a dissertation project!
Necessity is the Mother of Invention
The final push for Bitcoin to be created came about not only from my own personal banking experiences and my need to redeem BCCI after its unfair demise, but also from the Great Recession of 2008.
On a personal level, when I visited the UK in 2005, no bank would open its doors for me to give me access to a bank account because I didn’t have a permanent UK address. Without a bank account, I had no access to online facilities, and I didn’t know how to overcome this obstacle.
I didn’t like the way banks controlled and utilised other people’s money and I wanted to at least try to change this. I felt like a failure and was humiliated by the banks so I made it my mission to invent something that would enable a common layperson to access money without involving the big banks.
I wanted to empower the poor person, empower the little man, and create something that was accessible as the people’s money – the people’s bank with no boundaries, no nationalities, and no discrimination – where nothing was controlled by the government and where no one dictated and destroyed people for the sake of misplaced politics.
Even a poor kid with limited education could potentially reap the benefits from Bitcoin whilst sitting in China, India or Africa. I was driven to create something that would change finance and the banking world forever and would give people the power, taking away the central banks’ control.
How Bitcoin Got its Name
The origins of the word Bitcoin were derived not just from the IT terminology of “bit,” but because I was obsessed with bringing back the BCCI name to its glory days. While structuring the “unnamed” decentralized digital currency, I was looking at the name “Bank of Credit and Commerce International” and the light-bulb moment came where letters were calling me to pick the name. The letters were
Bank ofCredIT and COmmerce INternational.
I was determined to bring back the BCCI name, anyway. But initially I realised this had to be in an encrypted way, as I knew BCCI, as a name, was tarnished.
I had intentions to create a New Age digital bank and to create a system having open-source access, but I had intention to make it more useful and more polished at a later time. For this reason, I registered the domain “bitcoin.org” on the 18th of August 2008 through Anonymous Speech, which did not require the registrant to identify him or herself.
At the same time, I tried to register “BCCI” as a domain name, but it was not available. As an alternative, I registered “theBCCI.net” using my real name (which I legally changed, later on, in the UK) on the 18th of November 2008, a domain which I still own. I will share with you my real identity in Part III of “My Reveal” and go into greater detail, as the dates of the registration of the two domain names on the 18th of August and the 18th of November were not a coincidence.
At the time I created my alias Satoshi Nakamoto, I was paranoid of my real name as I thought it was synonymous with bad luck. I felt that anything I did with my original name didn’t go well. Every event with my old name was unlucky. I felt everything I initiated eventually burnt to the ground. For example, the university I enrolled in to complete my master’s ended up having government accreditation issues. Whether pursuing higher studies or my personal relationships failing, I attributed all of this to my unlucky name.
I felt more fortunate with my nickname at home, which was Shaikho. It was derived from Mughal Emperor Jahangir’s nickname Shekhu that was given to him by his mother, wife of Akbar the Great. In 1607, Jahangir founded what is now the city of Shekhupura in the Pakistani province of Punjab. Different spellings of the same name occur when variations are created in translations among languages.
Once I had decided to work on a project to create digital currency, I wanted to create it through an alias as I needed the online community to help me. I also thought the only way for it to be successful would be if I changed my name and chose a blessed number in numerology. Using numerology also would allow me to stay faithful to BCCI, but without there being an open reference to a company that was held in low esteem by the rest of the world.
This meant I had to be very careful about the alias I was going to choose. I wanted to select a name which was unusual and intelligent, but which at the same time could be traced back as having roots leading to myself.
The Power of Numbers
It has been said that numbers are bits of information that carry an intrinsic energetic quality and that by studying numerology, you can gain a better understanding of the deeper meaning and purpose underlying our experience.
I have been a student of Chaldean numerology since childhood.
I used numerology as a way to encrypt many of the decisions I made in the development of Bitcoin. The following example will help show how Chaldean numerology is applied with the use of names.
My nickname of Shaikho is calculated.
Then, taking it to the next step in the Chaldean system, you add the digits 2 and 4 in 24 to arrive at 6. Therefore, my nickname of Shaikho is equivalent to the number 24 in Chaldean numerology. And as this name began with the letter S, I also wanted my alias to start with the letter S and with the same number as 24, which equates to the number 6, which is very important in many religions.
While dealing with and exploring the financial world, I heard about Satoshi Sumita. He was often blamed for the easy monetary policies of the Bank of Japan, which gave rise to the Japanese asset price bubble of the late 1980s. Subsequent research, however, has exonerated him. I was working on something which was going to change the world forever and Satoshi was a perfect match with my nickname Shaikho, which was a perfect match in consonants and vowels, too.
My Pal Hal
Hal Finney was an esteemed programmer and computer scientist in California. He was a member of an activist group called the cypherpunks that advocated the widespread use of strong cryptography and privacy-enhancing technologies as a means of social and political change. Hal was a huge help to me. Together, both of us created the first Bitcoin transaction in 2009.
Hal and I began working on P2P Electronic Cash System – it wasn’t named Bitcoin at that point – in 2006-2007 and more extensively in 2007-2008. I proposed a solution about electronic cash which utilised his idea on the Reusable Proof-of-Work system (RPOW) and he really wanted to refine it. Hal was an idealist and a true cypherpunk and he didn’t care whether it would be successful, while my vision was to bring back BCCI in a digital commercial form.
As well as testing earlier versions of Bitcoin, Hal aided me in obtaining remote PCs to work on, as I used TOR, an open-source software for enabling anonymous communication. I wanted to use computers that were not using VPN and were physically on the network and not blacklisted. This is why some people have incorrectly surmised that I worked on Bitcoin from California, but I’ve never lived there.
My Way of Thinking
I spotted the right piece of the solution of the Byzantine Generals Problem in Hal’s 2004 RPOW. That’s the reason he was my closest ally and why I worked very diligently with Hal on many aspects of Bitcoin in its early days of development.
I’m not a conventional programmer or techie and some people have sensed that already, but I’m good on macro-level vision and seeing things on a far bigger scale. I can go to a future graveyard of technology and spot useful things that have been abandoned. But in these things, I can spot the future and build a giant from it, like Lego.
For those not familiar with the BGP, it is a fictitious problem first referenced in the 1982 paper, “The Byzantine Generals Problem.”
In simple terms, the BGP asks the question “How do you make sure that multiple entities, which are separated by distance, are in absolute full agreement before an action is taken?” A practical application of the solution to the BGP is referenced in my 2008 white paper, “Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System.”
Of course, I’d love to take all the credit of solving the BGP, but that’s not me, although I’ll give myself some credit in always putting the right piece into a jigsaw puzzle.
I’ve been very lucky in having an eye for smart people. My vision works for me in finding the solution, which was already there, but no one spotted it. I play the orchestra where I know which musician is best to perform.
“Satoshi Who? Satoshi Nakamoto?”
I began work on my idea for Bitcoin with just an alias forename and didn’t have any intention of creating a surname.
I was using only Satoshi in many of my initial email addresses. It was not long after I left the development of Bitcoin that I found all my email addresses had been hacked.
I was very careful to encrypt all communications, even with my closest collaborators, and never revealed any personal details. Gavin Andresen, Nick Szabo and others all know very little about me.
I cannot recall exactly, but when Hal initially saw my name of Satoshi online some time in 2005-06, he commented,
“Satoshi who? Satoshi Nakamoto?”
This must have been subconsciously lodged in my mind, thus creating the surname for Satoshi. I did not learn for many years after I created Bitcoin that Hal lived in the same Temple City, Calif., neighbourhood as one of only three people in the U.S. at the time with the name Satoshi Nakamoto.
The man’s full name is Dorian Satoshi Nakamoto, and he was mistakenly identified as me in a Newsweek cover story in 2014. It has been speculated that I sent an email from my old Satoshi address at the time that said, “I am not Dorian Nakamoto.” I am not that individual, but I also didn’t send that email.
I was paranoid in those days, but Hal didn’t know that and neither was he interested in asking irrelevant questions. When I firstly communicated to him and he gave me my surname Nakamoto, he did ask where I was from and my answer was that I’m from Asian ancestry. He assumed that as Japanese because of my pseudonym. Hal was the only one who I told about my actual ancestry.
Satoshi + Nakamoto = 55
When deciding on an alias surname, I wanted a master numerological name which had two Mercury numbers (5) associated with it. Mercury is the messenger of God in astrology. The number 55 represents the total and complete man and is symbolized by the two hands – 10 fingers — that join at the moment of prayer. In Chaldean numerology, a person with a 55 name is said to have the power to defeat any enemy he faces.
I also liked the first verse from the Torah/Bible’s Isaiah Chapter 55. This verse is very close to my heart, as I wanted to create something for people with no money or for people to mine their own money.
“Come, all you who are thirsty,
come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without cost.”
So this is how the name Satoshi Nakamoto came into existence. “Satoshi” means “clear thinking, quick witted; wise” – “Naka” means “medium, inside, or relationship” and “Moto” means “origin” or “foundation.” Satoshi on its own was also the number 24 in Chaldean numerology, which is the same as my nickname Shaikho’s number 24, and Satoshi Nakamoto is the number 55!
My work on the development of Bitcoin was the time I learnt more about C++ code, but Hal was on the next level. He was my Steve Wozniak who worked tirelessly on the vision I was feeding him. I always looked at how it would be successful commercially with a vision to change the financial world while he looked at the technical aspects.
Hal allowed me to pick and choose what I thought best for the project. Because I had to coordinate mostly with Hal, I operated in-between his time zone (U.S. Pacific Time) or sometimes the UK time zone because of my traveling. I also shared with him my concern about not using my laptop for long hours and also for my IP not being traced as I was working from Pakistan and later going back and forth between Pakistan and the UK.
Hal arranged a few computers for me to work on as I was using an old Fujitsu Lifebook and that laptop was very slow. One can imagine that even at the beginning of 2009, I was running this laptop with XP SP2 and not XP SP3. That laptop had a small-capacity disk that could be observed in my email exchange with Hal. Any heavy task was done on the remote desktop that Hal gave me through remote desktop software to access, and those computers were in different parts of the U.S.
Hal knew from day one that I was neither a cypherpunk nor a hard-core techie, but he always said that he liked my sincerity and smartness in things that no one else could envision. He liked when I talked about signs in people and he mentioned that in his last post on the 19th of March 2013 on Bitcointalk.
“Today, Satoshi’s true identity has become a mystery,” he said. “But at the time, I thought I was dealing with a young man of Japanese ancestry who was very smart and sincere. I’ve had the good fortune to know many brilliant people over the course of my life, so I recognize the signs.”
I think he used this post as a way to communicate with me, as he knew all my emails had been hacked. Unfortunately, by the time I looked at the post in 2015, he was gone forever.
When I read about Hal’s death in 2014 from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), the same disease that last year claimed the renowned physicist Stephen Hawking, I thought I should come out and say something. But I kept asking if revealing myself then was worth the risk.
I owe Hal a lot. He was a true genius. At some point in my life, if I can do something so people remember him by, I’ll do so.
Rest in peace, Hal Finney.