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I've tried to read about what a Bitcoin is, how to mine, etc. I find them to be confusing in that I don't understand the underlying factors driving Bitcoin. Everything I've read seems to assume the reader has some knowledge of Bitcoin (even the wiki). Where should I start?

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I recommend reading the articles and watching the videos on –  osmosis Sep 1 '11 at 8:32

10 Answers 10

I wrote the "New to Bitcoin? Start here!" post at

OrigamiRobot, I highly recommend that you read that introduction before proceeding on to anything else, especially the original whitepaper, which is incredibly unapproachable for the average person. After you finish it, come here and ask about the things that still confuse you--Bitcoin is very complicated, and it can take a while to wrap your head around it!

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+1 Nice introduction –  nmat Sep 10 '11 at 2:45 has an excellent video on the basic premise of bitcoin. Bitcoin is a very complicated platform, and really has two separate entities. There is bitcoin the currency, and bitcoin the currency ledger.

The wiki available at will give you more in depth information if the weusecoins video is too broad.

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For a detailed, yet approachable (if you know a little bit about software and cryptography) overview of how bitcoin works, read Satoshi's white paper at:

Here's a hint to get you started: a bitcoin is a balance in an account. It's not a token that is passed around. Many digital cash systems are based on discreet tokens. That's not the case with bitcoin. It is a ledger system that consists of a transaction history where balances are transferred between accounts. If you understand this before reading the paper, it might make more sense.

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this PDF explains it best, everything else makes a lot more sense if you first digest it. Bitcoin is still a piece of software, and as always reading the manual will always help. –  Buckhead_Comp_Ser_Co Aug 30 '11 at 21:54
I do not think the whitepaper is at all approachable for someone that is brand new to bitcoin, unless that person happens to be a cryptographer that is brand new to bitcoin. –  lemonginger Sep 1 '11 at 14:54

Try this blog post from The Economist. They are professional writers and obviously knowledgeable in economics so it's a good read. Their opinion on the future of Bitcoin is a bit pessimistic though.

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Please add a comment when downvoting. –  D.H. Sep 7 '11 at 17:09

I think that the Bitcoin wiki is actually a very good place to learn about Bitcoin. Just read the articles there. If you don't understand something, just continue reading and then follow up on the terms you didn't understand.

If you then still have questions left, feel free to ask them here.

PS: we use coins is also a good place to start, especially the video mentioned by Matth1a3.

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I've downvoted this answer, because it is almost the same as the one given by Alex Waters. –  Murch Jul 28 at 13:58

I recommend this master thesis on “Design and security analysis of Bitcoin infrastructure using application deployed on Google Apps Engine.” It covers the fundamentals of Bitcoin protocol and how everything works together in Bitcoin ecosystem.

I believe the author of this paper is also quite active here!

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A couple of years after this question was asked there is now an excellent book about bitcoin targeted mostly to developers: Mastering Bitcoin [github].

It's written by bitcoin expert Andreas Antonopoulos and is available for free on github.

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Why is this down-voted? Anything wrong with the answer? Please let me know. –  pors Aug 4 at 11:08

Others have already recommended Mastering Bitcoin and the whitepaper, and I'd strongly agree. Mastering Bitcoin's section on transactions is particularly useful.

However, nobody's recommended the Developer Guide at yet, and it's one of the better resources for learning about Bitcoin, in my opinion.

For less technical resources, a good starting place would be Andreas Antonopoulos and Balaji Srinivasan's videos on Youtube.

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I suggest the book Bitcoin Step by Step which can be found on Kindle.

It will get users started safe and secure in the Bitcoin market place. It takes them screen by screen
- on how to set up a wallet securely
- Funding an account
- sending / receiving BTC
- Extracting BTC to currency
- Where they can spend BTC
- How they can earn BTC

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I created this Canonical Newbie Guide on Reddit. It's still empty, but I'm hoping it will become a good resource for newbies.

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