It’s been more than ten years since computer scientist Hal Finney became the recipient of the first transaction on the Bitcoin blockchain, and his impact on crypto as a technology is still felt today.
Finney was one of the first people to respond to Satoshi Nakamoto’s post on the cypherpunks mailing list, with some in the space still believing he was one of the pseudonymous individuals behind the creation of Bitcoin (BTC).
The legendary Bitcoin pioneer would have turned 65 years old today, had he not passed away from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis — also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, or ALS — in 2014.
Prior to his death, Finney posted on the Bitcointalk forums about his early experiences with the cryptocurrency. He described mining several blocks on the BTC network as a relatively simple process in 2009, capable of being completed with a CPU rather than a GPU.
“When Satoshi announced the first release of the software, I grabbed it right away,” he said. “I think I was the first person besides Satoshi to run Bitcoin. I mined block 70-something, and I was the recipient of the first Bitcoin transaction, when Satoshi sent ten coins to me as a test. I carried on an email conversation with Satoshi over the next few days, mostly me reporting bugs and him fixing them.”
Finney was a well known cryptographer who worked for the PGP Corporation — later acquired by Symantec — in the development of software allowing users to encrypt emails and files. Even though one of his last messages said he was “essentially paralyzed,” Finney used an eyetracker system to write code aimed at beefing up the security around crypto wallets.
Finney is survived by his two children and wife Fran, who today posted a photo of the Bitcoin pioneer running through a neighborhood in the 1980s, an image retweeted by cryptographer Adam Back. Before his diagnosis, Finney was training to run a full marathon.
Prior to his death, Finney and his wife Fran worked to raise awareness and fundraising for ALS. Since his departure, Fran Finney has continued her husband's legacy, working together with the Golden West chapter of the ALS Association.