BY FAR the Easiest Way to Buy Bitcoin (With Screenshots)

What the hardest part about getting into Bitcoin? If you’re like most people who are first starting out, you’re probably trying to figure out how to actually buy it, right?

Personally, it took me years from when I first heard of Bitcoin before I actually took the initiative to purchase some myself. Luckily for those who are just starting out in 2017, buying Bitcoin has come a long way from its early days and has become a consumer-friendly product. Not only is it easier to buy, but there are now secure online platforms you can use to make your transfers and storage safer.

Introducing: Coinbase

Today, the easiest way to buy Bitcoin is through Coinbase. All of your digital currency is fully insured if Coinbase suffers a significant breach and all your fiat money is backed by the FDIC. Coinbase is the safest and easiest way to buy Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Litecoin.

How to Sign Up for Coinbase

To sign up for Coinbase, click here. Once you sign up, you start the process of verifying your identity and adding bank account information to transfer funds in and out of the platform. It will take a few days to set up but once you do, you can instantly buy and hodl the crypto of your choice.

Also, Coinbase offers an incentive to get others to sign up. For every $100 someone spends on Coinbase that you recruit, you get $10 of Bitcoin, and they receive $10 of Bitcoin as well. It is a great, simple way to introduce your friends and family to Bitcoin

 

The Drawbacks of Coinbase

Although Coinbase is the easiest way to buy Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, it does come with some downsides depending on how much you care. When you hold your Bitcoin on an exchange, you always run the risk of having your account hacked; Coinbase is not responsible for those stolen funds. In addition, you are at the mercy of Coinbase’s decisions and not your own. An example of Coinbase showing their power was in the case of the Bitcoin Cash hard forks. While people holding wallets were able to split their Bitcoin, Coinbase users have to wait until the end of 2017 to receive theirs. It’s these details that take out individual agency that may concern people on how a decentralized product such as Bitcoin is becoming more centralized. There is the simple alternative to this problem.

 

How to Use a Bitcoin Wallet

When I first wanted to buy Bitcoin, I was in the process of verifying myself on Coinbase. I couldn’t wait, and I knew I didn’t want to risk holding it on an online platform. Instead, I decided to go the Bitcoin ATM route and searched for one near me. I then downloaded a Bitcoin wallet, which is basically an offline place to store your Bitcoin. There are a number of wallets to choose from like Jaxx and Exodus that can store not only Bitcoin but other cryptocurrencies too, but my personal preference is Electrum. It solely stores Bitcoin, but in my opinion is simple to use.

Screenshot of what the Receive tab looks like

When setting up your wallet for the first time, write down your seed phrase and store them somewhere safe. This part is vital because if you forget your password, this is this the only way to retrieve your funds. Once done completing the onboarding process, you get to a screen that will show a complete history of your Bitcoin transactions. Next, click the receive tab and write down the address (or copy the QR code) shown. This address is needed for when you want to receive Bitcoin; your wallet automatically regenerates new addresses once an old one is used.

Once you have your address, get some cash and make your way to the Bitcoin ATM of your choice. Enter your receiving address into the ATM and deposit the cash and voila! It’s that easy. By the time you get home and check your wallet, your Bitcoin will already be there.

 

Conclusion

Purchasing Bitcoin has never been easier, but it does come with its trade-offs. Coinbase is best in terms of ease of access, but you have to give up a few freedoms for it. Although you are in complete control when you have a wallet, there is an element of personal responsibility involved. Even though I think a wallet is better for long-term storage, there is no right or wrong answer on how you want to handle your Bitcoin. Just remember to do your research and do ever what you feel most comfortable with.

 

A Conversation with an Ethereum Smart Contract Developer, Kedar Iyer

Since graduating from UCLA  a few years ago, Kedar Iyer has been traveling all over the world “just to get another paycheck.” While the California native was living in New York City, he had heard about Ethereum and saw an opportunity to be a part of a growing industry. Kedar is a Solidity developer, which means he codes the smart contracts that take place on the Ethereum blockchain. Wanting to know more about not only his perspective about Ethereum and other cryptocurrencies but how he ended up in such a new and cutting-edge industry inspired me to pursue this interview.

Where did you grow up and go to college? Did you really almost got kicked out of school for starting a food delivery service?

I grew up in Santa Clara, which is in the heart of Silicon Valley about 40 miles south of San Francisco, so I’ve been exposed to technology from a young age. My first tech memories are of the dot-com boom and crash, so I’ve got a good grasp on how people act in bubbles.

I went to college at UCLA, and yes, State Assemblyman Mike Eng asked UCLA to expel me and my roommate for a food delivery service we ran called Ching Chong Ling Long Takeout. The name was a joke of a video that had gone viral around that time and apparently, his constituents were highly offended. Thankfully our chancellor Gene Block refused to expel us, and we quietly closed down the business.

You have had an interesting path since graduating school. How did you end up where you are today?

I have a bad habit of moving cities and jobs fairly quickly. I’ve worked in Los Angeles, the Bay Area, Chennai, Mumbai, Los Angeles again, and New York in the last 4 years on various software projects. The highlight in the middle of those years was starting a dating site in Bangalore called LetsChai. The demand for the service wasn’t nearly as high as anticipated, so we shuttered the site after a few months.

I landed in crypto when I was living in New York less than a year ago. I attended a small talk on crypto trading and got so into it I opened a Poloniex account that night. 3 months later, everything was going to the moon.

How did you get into programming and then Solidity?

I wrote my first C++ program when I was 13 and proceeded to not touch programming again outside of the occasional script until after college. I imagine my life would have been different if I’d kept pursuing the subject back then itself, but all I cared about then was playing sports.

Coming out of college, I wasn’t enamored by my Mechanical Engineering major and saw that software was the future, so I got into the field with a software internship as the first employee at a web startup. I’ve worked with web development, Linux systems, back-end software, robotics, and even as a bootcamp instructor so I’ve seen software from a lot of different angles.

I got into crypto trading before I got into Solidity. Once I read the Ethereum white paper, I thought it could be the next big tech wave, and decided to teach myself Solidity.

When did you first hear of Bitcoin?

Around 2011 or 2012. It blew my mind when I first read the white paper and I told everyone about it for the first couple weeks. The first time I saw Bitcoin it was trading at under $2 a coin. It was way harder to buy back then. You had to meet someone in person and swap coins. No one with coins lived within 10 miles of me and I didn’t have a car, so I never made a purchase. I didn’t buy my first small amount of bitcoin until exchanges became more prevalent in 2013.

What is Ethereum and why is it useful?

Ethereum is a trusted computing platform on a trustless network. That means you don’t have to trust the individual participants of the network to trust that the code on the network will execute as intended. If the code says only the person who owns the private key linked to an asset can transfer that asset, I can trust that will be true 100% of the time. If the code says only the person that wins the lottery will be able to access the winnings, I can trust that it will happen as written.

A conventional database always has admins that can modify any part of the database. There’s an IT guy at Bank of America who can freeze your account, a.k.a. not allow you to make any changes to your entry in their database. A gambling site can get raided by the FBI and seize all your winnings on their site.  With Ethereum, none of this is an issue. If you own the asset, nobody else can touch it without your key.

How would you explain a smart contract and could you give an example of it in use?

A smart contract is a block of trusted code on a blockchain. It is generally used to move assets around or perform money related computations. Who won the bet? How much of my ICO token should you get in exchange for your 10 ether?

Smart contracts are the building block of Ethereum. They can contain multiple functions. When you send a transaction in Ethereum you are executing the code in one of the functions of a smart contract. By examining the code beforehand, you can know exactly what will happen when you send your transaction.

As an example, let’s say I have 10 ether and I want to use it to buy 100 of your COIN token (made up name), but neither of us know each other and it’s the Internet so we definitely don’t trust each other. If I send you my 10 ether, I have no guarantee that you will send me your 100 COIN. But I can create a smart contract that works as follows: I send my ether to the contract, you send your COIN, and the contract only makes the exchange when both of us have sent our portions. If one of us fails to make the payment within a specified time frame, the smart contract returns our funds.

Ordinarily, this sort of escrow service would require a 3rd party. In fact, there’s a whole industry dedicated to providing escrow services. With Ethereum, the smart contract acts as the 3rd party and unlike a normal person or business it is automated and can be trusted to do what it says it will 100% of the time. These are the sort of businesses that are going to be disrupted by blockchains.

Do you ever see normal consumers interacting with blockchain technology? If so, how and when?

At the moment, no. The closest I think the normal consumer will get to it in the near future is for large or international payments. I’d say Bitcoin is currently the best way to send amounts greater than $1000 or send money internationally. Blockchain technology is going to transform the way a lot of businesses operate, but from the user’s perspective, they might not even notice the changes happening.

What do you think is necessary in order for a cryptocurrency to be successful?

I think Bitcoin already has everything it needs to be successful as a store of value. It can’t be seized by external authorities, and you can fit millions of dollars in your jacket pocket without the risk of losing it or having it stolen. Rich guys love Bitcoin. Don’t fool yourself into thinking Bitcoin adoption is going to fueled by the common man. Governments won’t ban Bitcoin; they’ll be the ones using it. It’s a millionaire’s dream asset.

For a true everyday use cryptocurrency, the main barrier is going to be transaction fees. No one wants to have to pay money to use their money. Unfortunately, transaction fees attract miners and miners secure the network. That riddle will have to be solved before we see mainstream currency adoption.

There’s one way to get rid of transaction fees, and that’s by centralizing the network. One or a series of central authorities are authorized to verify transactions, but users still control their own money through private keys. And who do we know that specializes in issuing centralized currencies? Central banks! I think we’ll see a central bank crypto sooner than we think in the next 3 years and they will be the ones that fuel mass adoption of crypto. They know there’s a seismic shift headed their way and they’re smarter than they look. They’ll be looking to get ahead of the game and maintain as much control over the system as they can.

How do you see blockchain technology such as cryptocurrency reshaping the structure of society if at all?

In the long term, I think all assets and deeds that can be digitized will be stored on a blockchain. Stock exchanges will use blockchains for inter-exchange clearing. Real estate deeds, gold certificates, birth certificates. It will be a slow march until central banks adopt the technology. Then someone will figure out how to link the central bank crypto to smart contracts on Ethereum and all hell will break loose.

We’ll all be carrying around hardware wallets with our personal assets and information on it. Think that sounds a bit far-fetched? I’m an Estonian e-resident and everyone in the system gets issued a USB key they can use to sign documents with their government-issued private keys. That’s exactly how a blockchain works. They already have the infrastructure in place, they just have to add a blockchain on top of it. Look to Estonia to be the first to issue a central bank crypto.

What is your advice to crypto-noobs out there?

You will never understand the true power of crypto until you hold your own private keys and watch a transaction you sent clear on the blockchain without anyone knowing it was you. Buying and trading on exchanges aren’t the same. Facebook and Google have all your personal data, your phone tracks your every movement, and credit card companies know about every purchase you make. Crypto is our generation’s last grasp at a semblance of personal liberty.

Bitcoin is the gateway drug of the crypto world. The best way to get hooked is to buy a cheap hardware wallet and walk around with $100 or $1000 in your pocket. For the 100% raw experience, convert all your money to crypto held on your own keys, don’t pay the fee on your next parking fee or car registration, and watch the DMV go mad as it tries to place a lien on all your conventional accounts. Or just buy Bitcoin. Whatever floats your boat.

Why You Don’t Understand Bitcoin

“What is Bitcoin?” You may have been one of the hundreds of thousands of people who search for this answer on Google (as of October 2017).

You probably wished you didn’t, as you were left more confused about Bitcoin than before.

Why?

Because, after landing on thousands of different answers, you realized that very few pundits could explain how Bitcoin works in a way that is easy to comprehend. It’s not supposed to be easy to understand because Bitcoin a paradigm shift.

How Bitcoin is a Paradigm Shift

Bitcoin is a paradigm shift because it is at the nexus of four distinct fields: computer networking, economics, game theory, and cryptography. The computer network lays the foundation for the Bitcoin network to be built upon while cryptography adds a layer of security and legitimacy to the network. Economic models of Bitcoin analyzes how the markets behave not so much different than the New York Stock Exchange and game theory studies how people act within the network, whether with good faith or bad intentions. These four elements constantly interact with each other in a symbiotic manner to create Bitcoin.

An example that illustrates another recent paradigm shift was the advent of the internet. In that case, the paradigm that was shifted was also in computer networking, as well as information distribution, and surveillance technology. It took nearly two decades from when the internet first began to enter the mainstream consciousness in the 1990s for the internet to reach its full potential with the development of social media. People can now stay connected and keep in touch with each other by being “friends” with them on Facebook or following them on Twitter/Instagram. Information from news events can be decimated in real time with witnesses posting pictures and testimonies of the event on their social media accounts. In addition, public and private entities can easily figure out an individual’s profile and interest by analyzing their social media accounts.

The lifeblood of the internet is information, which is being circulated faster and freely more than ever before relative to the previous paradigm of media conglomerates having monopolies over print, television, and radio. Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are the lifeblood of a new emerging paradigm that will allow money to flow faster and more freely without the need for central control of banks and governments.

When you invest in cryptocurrency like Bitcoin, you take your money out of the centrally controlled world banking system and into a grassroots crypto-economic one. Bitcoin has no ‘leader,’ rather it has different parties (miners, developers, users, merchants, node operators) who constantly communicate compromise with each other to advance the development of the Bitcoin client software. In the end, it is you who is in control of your money, and if you lose it, that’s your problem.

The Paradigm Shift Is Coming Here/Proof That Bitcoin’s Paradigm Shift Is Already Here

Bitcoin, cryptocurrency, and other blockchain technology is a paradigm shift in that there is a need to create a new vocabulary to describe the universe of it. This is nothing new in the evolution of technology, as one can say similar events happened in the past.

Take the Industrial Revolution, for example. When it was in full-steam (pun absolutely intended), new terms came into existence to articulate what was happening around new technology with factories, trains, cars, etc. A simple phrase such as “I took my car to the mechanic for an oil change” could never have been conceptualized by people who did not live that experience.

In blockchain, we see that words and phrases that have either not commonly used (hard fork, replay protection, proof of work) or words that already have a commonly agreed upon definitions take on entirely new meanings (wallet, address, smart contract).

This lack of conceptualization is only temporary. As more people learn about Bitcoin and cryptocurrency, then the discrepancy in education will get smaller.

Where Is Bitcoin Now?

So, what have the results been for Bitcoin? Well, Bitcoin has risen from being worth a few dollars to know worth $6,600 in a matter of seven years. In the past year, it has risen in value by over 800%.

The rise of Bitcoin has not been smooth, though. It has come with its fair share of bubbles and downturns, most notably in 2013-2014 culminating with the collapse of Mt. Gox.

However, even with nearly 180 articles declaring Bitcoin’s demise, it has still found ways to bounce back and show perseverance through times of adversity.