For years, people wondered who, exactly, was Satoshi Nakamoto. The shadowy character had been the programmer who drove development behind Bitcoin, a cryptocurrency that’s taken the world by storm in the last couple of years. Nakamoto was alternately described as a coding wunderkind living in Tokyo, an agent for the CIA, or an alias created by a group of hackers.
Now, Leah McGrath Goodman, reporting for Newsweek, claims to have unmasked the real Satoshi Nakamoto. He’s a 64-year-old Japanese-American living in a modest home in the Los Angeles metro area, despite his purported $400 million cache of Bitcoin.
Ever since Bitcoin rose to prominence there has been a hunt for the real Satoshi Nakamoto. Did he act alone or was he working for the government? Bitcoin has been linked to everything from the National Security Agency to the International Monetary Fund
Yet, in a world where almost every big Silicon Valley innovation seems to erupt in lawsuits over who thought of it first, in the case of Bitcoin the founder has remained conspicuously silent for the past five years.
Bitcoin’s public unveiling occurred in 2008, when a paper published under the name Satoshi Nakamoto appeared on a cryptography mailing list. It outlined code that would form the basis of a digital currency. The next year, software was released that would allow people to “mine” the currency.
Bitcoins are created when a computer solves a complex mathematical problem. The new coin is then added to public ledger, where all transactions in the Bitcoin world are recorded. As more Bitcoins are created, the math required to mine a new Bitcoin becomes more complex, slowing the rate at which new ones are created. There’s a cap of 21 million possible Bitcoins; currently, about 12.5 million are in circulation.
In the last few years, various merchants have begun to accept Bitcoin, and currency trading markets have popped up to serve the market, including the now-bankrupt Mt. Gox, which was once the largest exchange and operated out of Japan. (It’s bankruptcy was brought about by news that some $460 million in Bitcoin had been stolen from the exchange.) On those exchanges, prices have fluctuated wildly, rising from $13 in early 2013 to $1,200. Today, the price is hovering in the mid-$600 range. Satoshi’s apparent outing this morning seems to have driven up the price slightly, though not significantly.