Thursday, 30 November 2017


Well before the stellar—and perhaps ultimately not unlike the ascent of Icarus—rise of one form of trusted electronic money that we are presently witnessing, there were quite a few antecedents including the primogenitor, DigiCash, invented by computer scientist and cryptographer David Chaum back in 1989.
Very much ahead of its time, Chaum’s idea evolved from a need he recognised in 1982 to protect the privacy of individuals conducting online transactions and devised a way to digitally commit to a deal by negotiating between public- and private-key security that was selective about the exposure of details and terms. The early form of electronic payments and exchange was wholly anonymous thanks to a system of protocols maintained across a network, much like its descendants. Though Deutsche Bank was one of the currency’s early-adopters, DigiCash went bankrupt in 1998 having come to the market prematurely, before the integration of the internet with electronic transactions which lagged behind. E-commerce is older of course than on-line shopping with clearing houses for bank transfers, automated teller machines and credit card infrastructure but it’s really amazing to think how different our relation to money and trade was back then and how little the underpinnings have changed.