In the modern world, everything is moving fast as the technology around us advances at a rapid pace. One perfect example of the modern technology and its impact is Bitcoin. It revolutionized the concept of currencies for the entire world. But do you know who the people behind this revolutionary concept are? Do you know who is Hal Finney? He is one of the men who changed the world for all of us.
Let’s take a glance at his life and contribution to the cryptocurrency industry in this detailed article.
Who is Hal Finney?
His complete name is Harold Thomas Finney II. So who is he? He is considered to be the pioneer and developer of Bitcoin currency.
In fact, the story of Bitcoins would be incomplete without mention of Hal Finney and his tremendous contribution towards its development and worldwide recognition and acceptance.
It is even widely believed that he himself is Satoshi Nakamoto who introduce Bitcoin transactions that could only take place between two persons. People believed that he hid behind the made-up name. He may be worried about the backlash of the establishment. This is because the concept was a challenge to the US Dollar.
For more details, you can check out this article on Satoshi Nakamoto here.
However, there is far more to the life of Hal Finney other than his instant recognition as a pioneer of Bitcoin. Particularly, his heroic struggle with his illness. His courage in face of the sickness, and maintaining focus on the work in hand, is an inspiration for many of us.
This singular feat alone, of remaining focused and contended in the face of creeping disability and certain death is not what we come across in everyday life. In order to get a glimpse of how his thoughts literally transform into words, you must read his last ‘post’. The post itself is a source of inspiration for many.
To be honest, if someone ask me who is Hal Finney? Above all his contributions to cryptocurrencies, he is the man who fought with a deadly diseases with courage, and kept working on his passion till the last day.
Early Life & Career
Born in Coalinga, Ca. in 1956, Hal Finney acquired his professional education from ‘California Institute of Technology. He completed his B.S. in Engineering in 1979 from the University. For more details about his early education, please check here.
A year prior to his graduation, Hal was hired by ‘APh Technology Consultants’ (hired by ‘Mattel’). He was initially assigned to work on their cash register software.
Hal Finney then worked on the sound effects of the video games developed by the company. He did so successfully and was even able to come up with some new effects. Soon enough, he was developing video games independently. Apart from games, he also developed a number of other software as well.
In particular, he designed & developed a spectrometer for Bausch & Lomb. He also developed some innovative camera control software for a Hollywood special effects house. Hal continued working for APh right till 1986.
Because of his intuition for encryption, Hal started working jointly with Phil Zimmermann in development of PGP (Pretty Good Privacy). Thereafter when Phil set up the PGP Corporation in 1996, he joined him immediately. He remained in that organization right up to his retirement in 2011.
If you look around, you will only find a few professionals who develop a passion for their expertise. Thus reverting to the question of who is Hal Finney, he was one of such individuals. While at PGP Corporation, he continued honing his software encryption skills and experimenting with innovative ideas no matter who initiated them.
That was how he got familiar with Cypherpunks and even developed the first so-called ‘anonymous remailer’ (a cryptographically-based remailer) which he ran for some time. He also created reusable proof of work RPOW in 2004.
He also become instantly interested when Satoshi put forward the concept of cryptocurrency in 2008. Read more about what is cryptocurrency and how it can be used in our previous blog post.
Hal Finney became the first person to acquire the first-ever release of cryptocurrency software. He also became the first recipient of Bitcoins. From then on, he became so engrossed in the development and spread of Bitcoins that many people still believe that it was he himself, and not Satoshi Nakamoto who actually was behind it throughout.
This is more so since Satoshi’s true identity has gone into oblivion, thus raising the issue as to who is Hal Finney?
Over the next few years, once he ensured that development, as well as spread, of Bitcoins was up & running, he focused more towards his software upgrade which, it seems, could not at times keep up with his insatiable needs of working through far into the future. He improved the Bitcoin software significantly and also operated as one of the first miners of the Bitcoins network.
Then in the year 2010, when Bitcoins had already become a buzzword in the press and media, he developed an ‘off-line’ wallet system to store the Bitcoins. That concept too gained instant acclaim.
Personal Health issues
Right up to his early fifties, Hal Finney remained super fit physically. He even ran marathons and intended to undertake longer runs progressively.
But then suddenly he was diagnosed with ALS syndrome (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis). His strength gradually gave way, his muscle movements got shaky and even his voice slurred. At that defining moment, Hal decided to face it all boldly and to adapt to his deteriorating physical constraints.
He continued working ceaselessly, adjusting to his ever-deteriorating physical state and yet remaining cheerful. His mental faculties were still functioning and so was his ever-inquisitive brain that kept on exploring and experimenting with new ideas.
Despite being on a power wheelchair and fed and breathing through tubes, Hal continued with his work. He even developed a means to adjust his wheelchair just by using his eye motions by interfacing with an arduino for this purpose. He similarly used a commercial eye-tracker system to operate his computer.
Nothing could hinder his remarkable resilience and a yearning to keep on working on what has been his life’s passion. Right up to his last, he continued programming and writing codes and accomplishing his self-allocated targets.
Hal Finney breathed his last on August 28, 2014. In accordance with his wish & plans, his body has been cryonically frozen and preserved at a special-purpose facility managed by Alcor Life Extension Foundation. Click here for more details.
This is in keeping with his own futuristic trend and outlook which have been the hallmark of his life-long efforts throughout.
A year before his death, he wrote his autobiography aptly captioned “Bitcoin and me”. This simple one-pager seems more focused on his work and excitement to do more, than his own serious health issues that had overshadowed his physical faculties, but not his strong determination and Will.
If at all, he only mentioned his health, as if in passing, never wanting to drift from his passionate narrative of work-in-hand. That autobiography that seemed to have ‘flowed right from his heart’ has been read over hundreds and thousands of times with an incredibly large number of comments and well-deserved commendations from his innumerable fans from across the globe.
Ever since his death, Hal Kenney is duly remembered by the ever-growing ‘Bitcoin community’ who remember and pay homage to him each year at the annual anniversary of Bitcoins.
Hal Finney had a unique personality. And for this, he remained satisfied, thankful and optimistic right till his death. Even in his state of sickness, where he could discern his fast approaching end, he remained cheerful and ever adaptive to his deteriorating physical state.
Few in his place would have been as brave, realistic and could remain focused to their ‘work-in-hand’ as Hal did. The only other person who comes to mind as having been of an equally strong Will and remarkably similar stature is Stephan Hawkins. His life and accomplishments shall remain a source of inspiration for the coming generations.
Hal Finney & Bitcoins
The concept and the very word ‘Bitcoin’ shall always remain synonymous with Hal’s name. As a matter of fact, whenever you read about Bitcoins, you may also want to know who is Hal Finney? To be honest, he is the most mysterious personality in the cryptocurrency world.
Even if he was not the real originator and author of this futuristic currency (he never actually claimed so), yet Bitcoins would never have been transformed into practical reality had it not been to Hal Finney’s quick and proactive approach.
His revolutionary ideas literally ensured Bitcoins taking off and their universal acceptance as such. His quotes on the efficacy of cryptocurrency have been instrumental in infusing credibility of Bitcoins. You will particularly like to read his pertinent comments here.
Hal made the very first Bitcoin transaction thereby strongly conveying his own conviction in the practical use and real-term value of this unique crypto-currency. He thus ensured to transform it into reality. Initial skepticism quickly diminished when he himself become the first purchaser of Bitcoins. He also worked on its software to ensure its authenticity and acceptability.
— halfin (@halfin) January 11, 2009
Even as early as in 2009, Hal believed in the idea that eventually each Bitcoin will reach US$ 10 million in value.
That was at least five years before the said cyber-currency spiked to unimaginable levels. For details thereon, click here. The rest is all history and we are living through it.
Life & Achievements
I find Hal Finney’s life as one of consistency, extreme passion and singular focus on innovation and futuristic approach. It seems that ever since he left his University, there had been no turning back in his life.
Right from the start of his professional career, Hal was working on programming projects, and developing programs for various video games. Perhaps he was lucky (or maybe it was the other way round!) that he soon got in touch with Phil Zimmermann. Luckily, both shared the similar interests thus making a great team.
His joining thus, of Phil’s PGP Corporation was a logical progression and culmination of identical ideas that also ensured the resounding success of PGP Corporation itself. The very fact that he derived full professional satisfaction working for PGP is amply manifest in his decision to continue with this organization right till his retirement which he took because of his (then) deteriorating physical health.
Nonetheless, glancing through Hal’s relatively brief, yet remarkable career, we find that his heart was where his passion lay. Thus even while at PGP Corporation, he continued in his pursuits for innovating for the future.
It was because of this yearning, that Hal got involved with ‘cypherpunks’ – somewhat freelance developers. They have freely acknowledged his unflinching support and encouragement that they got at that defining moment of their early lives; many of them later transformed into experts ‘par excellence’ in their respective areas of software development.
Simplicity & Focus
Several of Hal’s interviews – given before as well as during the period of his illness, reveal his simple nature, a candid admission of failures along with successes, his firm commitment to the future as well as his yearning to look and talk beyond his own physically paralyzing state and issues.
You may go through his one such interview for further knowledge on the subject. Here’s his last post once again to show you what a remarkable inspiration he was.
Last, but not the least, who is Hal Finney for his family? Despite his virtually workaholic passion for his never-ending thirst for development, customization, innovation, adaptability and results-oriented approach, Hal Finney was a simple family man.
He nurtured his kids, a son, and a daughter to also become tech-savvy, not by compulsion but by choice. His loving wife remained by him till he breathed his last. He died a peaceful death, fully satisfied and comfortable with his legacy.
Who is Hal Finney? The Final Words
Hal Finney was known for his warm-heartedness and generosity by his colleagues. He is considered as a genius who contributed to cryptocurrency while fighting with a deadly disease.
When Satoshi is a still a mystery figure, many believe Hal Finney was actually Satoshi.
If it is true, then the answer for the question Who is Hal Finney is – he is founder of Bitcoin.
But to be honest, a lot of things about him are still a mystery. Is is really Satoshi? Is he the man behind Bitcoin? It looks like, it will remain a mystery unless Satoshi come forward or Hal’s wife breaks her silence.