In Homage to Hal Finney’s “Bitcoin and me”
I was very close to my Grandfather. He was the first to hold me when I was born. He taught me about investing, inflation, precious metals, ancient coins, and an impending war between haves and have-nots. In 1995 he bought me a computer. After making some greeting cards and playing Castles, a 9 year old me was sitting in front of the magnificent machine thinking…. “How do I make an eric.money file? Wait no, that wouldn’t work since you could just copy/paste it and double the money.” My Grandfather died too early in 1999. I think about what he has taught me almost every day.
More than a decade and three computers later my degenerate hungover self was on the couch during my last semester of college in 2009. My mother called me after reading a small excerpt in the San Francisco Chronicle, “Have you heard of that Bitcoin thing? Someone made a computer money!” I was dismissive and ignorant, “You can’t just make computer money since you can copy/paste it”. I impatiently tried learning about it using the Bitcoin software on my Dell laptop but I couldn’t tell if it was working. I’ll never know if any block reward went to that wallet.dat file. Over the coming years I would say to myself: “Phew! Bitcoin is dead now…”
As I started ‘adulting’ I joined a point-of-sale tech startup, absorbed the industry like a sponge, and the underlying Linux system of the POS. I was a Mechanical Engineer who was finally understanding how computers ‘worked’. It all started to click: hashing to verify, public/private keys with encryption, p2p like with Napster/Limewire. I later joined the Product team and started going to Sri Lanka twice a year to work with development teams on payments initiatives like EMV/chip credit card processing. One of the most disconcerting things in my experience was that on my first trip to Colombo I exchanged $1 for ~130 Rupees, and after a handful of trips I was exchanging $1 for ~150 Rupees. While I liked this as an American on a visa, the devs I worked with who became my friends expressed disgust.
In between Sri Lanka trips in early 2016 I went to CES to meet with some business partners. During that conference I attended the Digital Money Forum which I thought would mostly be about emerging contactless payments in the US. While somewhat true, a lot of people spoke about Bitcoin/Crypto (albeit in a dull way). The Forum’s closing session with Brock Pierce and Charlie Lee is what hooked me. I did have some doubts about them since Charlie just adjusted some of Bitcoin’s code by a factor of 4 to get rich, and Brock was in movies I watched in childhood. Halfway through the session I thought with a fair amount of confidence that they actually knew what they were talking about. They were smarter than me in this domain and I should listen to them. Charlie’s closing notion resonated with me, “Don’t ignore it, it’s going to change everything.” I didn’t know it then, but I was “Orange Pilled”.
In early 2017 I received a company buyout bonus from Sysco Foods. Money was tight, but with this payout I started to seriously consider taking a part in ownership of the 21 million. While on a trip to Chicago for the National Restaurant Association Show I visited a college friend who worked at the Mercantile Exchange. I expressed my thoughts on Bitcoin as a duality of investment vehicle and something that could be an emerging worldly monetary system. He was one step ahead of me already, held my hand onboarding to Coinbase and GDAX. 2017 was an insane year!
After some HODLing I travelled to Lebanon in 2018 for one of my good friend’s weddings. While I found the place a beautiful melting pot of chaos, I never thought twice about why vendors, etc would rather be paid in US Dollars than the local Lira. It wasn’t anything that happened in Beirut that furthered my convictions but what happened in the years after; the multiple USD/Lira exchange rates from the bank, vendor, or the black market, the imposed minuscule ATM withdrawal limits, the power outages, the expensive generator arrangements. How can a whole country economically implode so quickly? All those amazing people I met shouldn’t have to go through this.
Throughout the years I went in heavy from equally weighted conviction. I became increasingly frustrated with Sysco’s slowly manifesting acquihire, feeling pressure to do ever more work with ever less resources. My developers were no longer cherished, now just pawns on the gameboard. Brain drain was hitting the engineering organization hard. When COVID hit, Sysco raptured more of my best developers and sold us off to a new company which did the same thing again. In the meantime every penny I wasn’t spending on life went to Bitcoin like a savings account. The discipline paid off…
In April 2021 I ascended as a Bitcoiner. I quit that stale job. I moved my 401k into a Self-Directed IRA. I now look at all savings accounts in Bitcoin terms. Most importantly, I got back to building with passion. The first thing I did was get myself a decent 3D printer, learned some C++, and built an analog clock with the Bitcoin Roller Coaster Guy rotating up/down based on the 24hr USD/BTC change. I now sell this clock online for Bitcoin with a simple Woocommerce website using BTCPayServer. I was back to building cool shit, and Bitcoin, the coolest shit in the world, enabled me to do it. I yearn to help others do what I managed to do.
I’d like to think my Grandfather would be proud. The dots are connecting and unveiling something occult. Sri Lankan inflation (now at 360 Rupees/Dollar) and instability has destroyed the people’s joy of life and economic output. Lebanese citizens find themselves in armed standoffs to withdraw their own hard-earned money at a bank. The U.S. Federal Government continues to spend more money than it makes. There isn’t much long-term thinking. The whole world is setup for irresponsibility because the whole system is made up of debt. Is all this grotesque evil or monumental stupidity? Hanlon’s razor resonates in contemplation. My past experiences, my professional undertakings, manifest into a greater purpose: If we can manage to fix our money, we can fix the foundation of our world…