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How was the Bitcoin system initialized? Can one start the system with only a single node (computer)? Please explain it in plain English. Thanks, guys.

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    possible duplicate of When and how did Bitcoin start? – Highly Irregular Feb 21 '12 at 23:39
  • You might need to explain what you mean by "start the system" - do you mean the bitcoin network as a whole? That might be better asked as a separate question, and if that's what you mean, then it seems to really apply to other cryptocurrencies that might start in the future, since bitcoin has obviously already started. In that case, it should definitely be a separate question. – Highly Irregular Feb 21 '12 at 23:42
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The first block is known as the "genesis block" or "block 0". It was mined using the same hashing algorithm as any other block, but at difficulty 1. It contains only one transaction, the coinbase, which gives 50 BTC to address 1A1zP1eP5QGefi2DMPTfTL5SLmv7DivfNa.

Once the block had been successfully mined its hash was hardcoded into the Bitcoin client's source code so that it and it alone would be accepted as the official genesis block.

src/main.cpp contains this line:

uint256 hashGenesisBlock("0x000000000019d6689c085ae165831e934ff763ae46a2a6c172b3f1b60a8ce26f");
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    I just noticed you asked for "plain English" and I used expressions like "hashing algorithm", "coinbase" and "source code". I hope you understood despite my inability to speak like a regular person... – Chris Moore Feb 22 '12 at 5:33
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Exactly like all of the other mined bitcoins.

There are some quirks about it, though. For example, the previous block hash is all zeros, because no block came before it. Also, those bitcoins can't be spent, because of a quirk in the code.

Of course, if there's only one node in the network, it's not really a decentralized payment processing system.

  • What kind of "quirk" are you referring to? Will the second block be spendable? – Pacerier May 25 '14 at 5:49

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