Bitcoin first appeared in a 2008 white paper authored by someone called Satoshi Nakamoto,18 the mysterious deus absconditus of the blockchain world. Today, cryptocurrencies and blockchains are very much in the news. Much of this coverage is lurid, sensationalistic, and irresistible: roller-coaster prices and instant riches, vast sums of money stolen or inexplicably lost, underground markets for drugs and weapons, and promises of libertarian utopias just around the corner.
This article is a tutorial on the basic notions and mechanisms underlying blockchains, colored by the perspective that much of the blockchain world is a disguised, sometimes distorted, mirror image of the distributeda computing world.
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