Before Bitcoin – A Study of Early Attempts and Influences

Reading Time: 2 minutes
  • Before Bitcoin there were plenty of other attempts at digital currencies
  • Some never got off the ground, yet still formed part of Bitcon’s core principles
  • We dive into what came before Bitcoin and the influence these projects had

Bitcoin didn’t just spring fully formed from the ground in 2008. It is a combination of a number of ingenious technological ideas dating back to the 1980s, but not many people know of these previous attempts at digital money. Here we run through some of the digital currencies and other technologies that came before Bitcoin and which all helped, in their own way, to influence it.


Name: DigiCash

Creator: David Chaum

Years active: 1989-1998

Key technologies: Blind Signature Technology, key encryption

Notable achievements: Was supported by two banks, The Mark Twain Bank in Missouri and Deutsche Bank in Germany.

Fate: Filed for bankruptcy in 1998 and was sold in 2002. Chaum blamed timing, saying it would have survived in the internet era.



Name: B-Money

Creator: Wei Dai

Years active: Never

Key technology: Proof-of-work, collective bookkeeping, digital signatures with public keys

Notable achievements: Was intended to be currency-based application of HashCash. Is referenced in the Bitcoin whitepaper.

Fate: B-Money never launched, but some of its key components live on in Bitcoin.



Name: E-Gold

Creator: Dr. Douglas Jackson and Barry K. Downey

Years active: 1996-2009

Key technology: Mass scale digital transactions, microtransaction payments

Notable achievements: Was credited as being the first successful digital payments service. Was processing more than $2 billion worth of spending per year at peak.

Fate: Company collapsed after hacks and allegations of money laundering by users. Company could not get a money transmitter licence and was shuttered in 2009.



Name: HashCash

Creator: Adam Back

Years active: 2002-date

Key technology: Proof-of-work

Notable achievements: Utilized proof-of-work concept to limit email spam and ddos attacks. Not a digital currency, but still implemented into Bitcoin. Referenced by name in the Bitcoin whitepaper.

Fate: As well as helping to power Bitcoin, HashCash is still included or available for many Linux distributions and used in email clients, such as Mozilla’s Thunderbird.


Bit gold

Name: Bit gold

Creator: Nick Szabo

Years active: Never

Key technology: Proof-of-work, blockchain, decentralization

Notable achievements: Shared many similarities with Bitcoin, including blockchain concept, proof-of-work, and a decentralized network.

Fate: Bit gold was never implemented but many of its core concepts live on in Bitcoin, more than any other pre-Bitcoin concept. This led to Szabo being fingered as Satoshi Nakamoto by more than one reputable source.


Bitcoin is The Clear Winner

It’s clear that all of these projects influenced Bitcoin in a variety of ways, some more than others, but it’s clear that without them Bitcoin wouldn’t be the force it is today. So as well as Satoshi Nakamoto, we need to thank these earlier pioneers who blazed a trail for him to follow, a trail which is still burning strong today.