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How Two Disabled Men Changed the Financial World

Last Updated March 4, 2021 4:49 PM
Justin OConnell
Last Updated March 4, 2021 4:49 PM

The revelations of the last four months surrounding Craig Steven Wright – who claimed to be the inventor of Bitcoin – have shed perhaps a new light on the early beginnings of Bitcoin. When Wright first made his claims, he implicated his deceased friend David Kleiman as co-founder of Bitcoin.

If this is true, when paired with Hal Finney, then the two disabled men would have played an instrumental role in changing the future of banking systems – and, indeed – many systems that make up our way of life today.

Image courtesy of Forbes
Image courtesy of Forbes

When Wired and Gizmodo first broke Wright’s identity, and his claims regarding the beginning of Bitcoin, the latter publication focused in on Kleiman , who has a litany of certifications in cyber-security.

He had suffered a motorcycle accident that left him handicapped. Oftentimes, when people tried to analyze the writing of Satoshi Nakamoto, they would note how it seemed, sometimes, the writing style changed. If Kleiman indeed played an early role, then two of the earliest Bitcoiner – he and Hal Finney – would have both been wheelchair-bound.

After his accident, Kleinman’s dedication  to computers grew, and he became an elite specialist. He contributed to many of the same mailing lists Satoshi Nakamoto did. While his friend’s doubt that Kleiman helped invent Bitcoin, they admit he certainly had the skills to do so.

Hal Finney, who lived far from Kleiman’s Palm Beach County residence in Los Angeles, California, received the first ever Bitcoin sent from Satoshi Nakamoto as a test. Long before receiving that, he was a respected figure in the cryptography community. He ran the first cryptographically secured anonymous mailer in the 1990s. Hal explained his situation on BitcoinTalk:

When Satoshi announced the first release of the software, I grabbed it right away. I think I was the first person besides Satoshi to run bitcoin. I mined block 70-something, and I was the recipient of the first bitcoin transaction, when Satoshi sent ten coins to me as a test. I carried on an email conversation with Satoshi over the next few days, mostly me reporting bugs and him fixing them.

Finney mined bitcoin with CPUs

Photo credit: Patrick Paige

He mined bitcoins with CPUs, when this was possible. After having mined several blocks, Hal turned the mining  off, because the noise bothered him and it made his computer hot. In retrospect, Hal admits, he wishes he had kept it on, while acknowledging how lucky he was to be there at the beginning.

Despite his disability, Finney looked at the bright side: “I can still read, listen to music, and watch TV and movies. I recently discovered that I can even write code. It’s very slow, probably 50 times slower than I was before. But I still love programming and it gives me goals. Currently I’m working on something Mike Hearn suggested, using the security features of modern processors, designed to support ‘Trusted Computing’, to harden Bitcoin wallets. It’s almost ready to release. I just have to do the documentation.”

Hal pondered bitcoin, even in its very earliest days:

Andy Greenberg interviewed  Hal, this theory was largely put to rest. The interview was conducted the only way Hal could towards the end of his life: a raise of the eyes for yes, and a lowering for no.

Greenberg asked Hal if he was involved in the creation of bitcoins. With his eye movement, Hal says he was not. Greenberg reformulated the question:

I sat next to Finney again and asked him if, in [the] sense of open-source contribution, he did consider himself one of the creators of Bitcoin. He raised his eyes and eyebrows.

Then I asked him if he was proud of that work. Finney raised his eyes again, and he smiled.

Featured image from Shutterstock.