How Hal Finney Helped Blockchain Develop

Adam Back says Hal was someone who didn’t have time for arguments and always knew what he wanted.

Hal Finney died on August 28, 2014 after suffering from Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). Finney was one of those that started spreading the news about Bitcoin earlier than most others as he received a mail to that effect directly from Satoshi Nakamoto. In the days when others were doubtful about how technology could evolve money, Finney’s trust in the mission was unwavering and he continued to convince the people.

In fact, before Finney joined the Bitcoin movement, he was already an acknowledged cryptographer. One of the places he first worked at was PGP Corporation, the maker of Pretty Good Privacy software. The PGP software was adopted by those that wanted to encrypt the messages they sent through texts and emails, as well as those that wanted to save theirs on their devices. The invention of Reusable Proofs of Work software (RPOW) was attributed to Finney in 2004. It was called “Reusable” because it was a follow up on what Adam Back did on his proof-of-work concept. It was Finney’s invention that gave Bitcoin its boost although Satoshi did not recognize it in his white paper.

Adam Back, in an interview with Cointelegraph, said he used to communicate with Finney through emails although he never saw him while in prison. He recounted that they were friends and even wanted Finney to grant him the opportunity to say something about his RPOW work:

Well, I never met him in person, but I consider him to be a constructive personality more interested in building things than arguing about politics. While building things with cypherpunk intent, he would just focus on the constructive part of conversations. Don’t think I ever saw him participate in online arguments on the cypherpunks list.

Some other historical events also point to Finney. For example, he was the first to receive Bitcoin and the second person (Satoshi was the first) to mine Bitcoin. It was discovered in 2009 that he had ALS. The ailment didn’t make him feel bad at first but later developed into such a state that Finney couldn’t move his limbs few months before he died. Finney didn’t talk so much about his involvement in the development of Bitcoin when he said goodbye on Bitcointalk.org. He died five years after the diagnosis and his body was cryopreserved.

Before Finney died, he started an awareness and fundraising campaign for ALS with Fran Finney, his wife, and she has continued with that mission till today.

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