Bitcoin’s Birthday: Satoshi Nakamoto’s Hidden Message Explained

12 years ago today, a programmer operating under the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto deployed a piece of code that would change the world forever. On Bitcoin’s birthday, we unpack the symbolic newspaper headline Nakamoto made famous.

Key Takeaways

  • Satoshi Nakamoto launched Bitcoin in January 2009 during the global financial crisis.
  • The “Chancellor on brink of second bailout for banks” timestamp Nakamoto left in the Genesis Block hints at their motive for creating the digital currency.
  • Like Bitcoin, original copies of The Times newspaper the message references are now extremely sought after.

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When the pseudonymous creator of Bitcoin, Satoshi Nakamoto, launched the Genesis Block on Jan. 3, 2009, they left a timestamp referencing The Times newspaper’s front page from the same day.

The “Chancellor on brink of second bailout for banks” message has a much deeper meaning, one that still resonates with ardent Bitcoiners years later.

Satoshi’s Symbolic Bitcoin Message 

Despite the growing attention Bitcoin has earned since 2009, there’s a lot of mystery surrounding its creator, Satoshi Nakamoto.

It’s now the digital currency’s 12th anniversary, and their true identity is still unknown. Several candidates have been declared “the one” (or, in Craig Wright’s case, put themselves forward), though no conclusive answer has materialized. 

Whoever Satoshi Nakamoto really was, it’s widely believed that they had a disdain for the traditional finance system.

They released the Bitcoin whitepaper on Oct. 31, 2008, when the world was going through the global financial crisis. By late 2010, they’d vanished, still unwilling to lay claim to the groundbreaking monetary system they’d created. 

The trail of messages Satoshi Nakamoto left prior to their sudden disappearance has led many to believe that Bitcoin was a response to the events of 2007-2008. On the message board for the P2P Foundation, an organization focused on peer-to-peer technology, Satoshi Nakamoto wrote a memorable post introducing Bitcoin in February 2009.

In it, they showed their uneasiness at placing trust in fractional reserve banking: 

“Banks must be trusted to hold our money and transfer it electronically, but they lend it out in waves of credit bubbles with barely a fraction in reserve. We have to trust them with our privacy, trust them not to let identity thieves drain our accounts. Their massive overhead costs make micropayments impossible.”

Satoshi Nakamoto launched Bitcoin’s Genesis Block on 18:15:05 UTC on Jan. 3, 2009. The moment would become a keystone of Bitcoin history.

There were several unique features to the block, also known as block 0. The 50 BTC mining reward from the first transaction was made unspendable. Though the reason for this has been a topic of debate among Bitcoiners, there’s a good chance that Satoshi Nakamoto had accounted for the anomaly in their plans—this was an expert coder, after all. 

Whereas new blocks are produced at an average of every 10 minutes, it took six days to find the next one on the chain. The reason behind this is also a mystery.

Some have even suggested that there could be a religious link: in the Book of Genesis, God created the heavens and earth in six days, then took a day of rest. 

Notably, Satoshi Nakamoto only publicly announced Bitcoin to The Cryptography Mailing List on Jan. 9, the same day the next block on the chain was found. 

The Times 03/Jan/2009

But the most famous feature of the block was the message Satoshi Nakamoto left in its coinbase parameter, which read as follows: 

“The Times 03/Jan/2009 Chancellor on brink of second bailout for banks.”

The same message appeared in reverse on line #1616 when its hexadecimal string was converted to text: 

“sknab rof tuoliab dnoces fo knirb no rollecnahC 9002/naJ/30 semiT ehT.”

Satoshi Nakamoto's Bitcoin Message
Source: SourceForge

This subtle memorandum gave the Genesis Block an immutable timestamp by referring to The Times newspaper’s front page on Jan. 3, 2009.

But it likely had another hidden meaning. In the messages they posted online, Satoshi Nakamoto made it clear that they weren’t a fan of the financial system, so it wouldn’t be a stretch to assume that their reference to the failings of traditional banking was a statement on what Bitcoin was setting out to fight against.

If they really did create Bitcoin in response to the financial crisis, they’d be hard-pressed to find a more fitting message to launch with. 

Satoshi Nakamoto's Bitcoin Message (1)
Source: The Times 03 Jan 2009

Like Bitcoin itself, copies of The Times newspaper Satoshi Nakamoto immortalized are now much more valuable than they were in 2009.

That’s because they’re widely sought-after and incredibly rare. A handful has appeared on Bitcoin fan forums over the years, though these have been few and far between.

There’s also a dedicated website where a few original copies are listed on sale accompanied by a certificate of authenticity. Prices range from $250,000 to over $1 million.

“Value is determined by scarcity,” the website says. “There are only 8 verified copies of this newspaper in existence.”

Satoshi Nakamoto would make their final public post on the bitcointalk.org forum in December 2010, their identity still concealed even as Bitcoin began to draw wider interest. Though their deeper motives for creating the digital currency are still fairly opaque to this day, The Times reference is one of a few clues that hint at their intentions.

What’s indisputable, though, is the gravitas of the monetary revolution Satoshi Nakamoto laid the foundations for.  

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