Blockchain, bitcoin, mining, consensus algorithms, hash functions, SHA-256 encryption, it gets the juices going, doesn’t it? While the industry could do with a linguistic makeover, there are ideas hidden in the jargon-laden trees that will change everything from banking to hip-hop rap battles.
But blockchain can feel as tough a subject to crack as the encryption it uses to keep your lambo-millions safe. Which is why, dear reader, we’ve searched high and low for the easiest, most entertaining explainers of all blockchain is and has to offer - and presented them all in one handy list. But we know you’re a busy bunch - time is money and all that - so we’ve organized our recommended reading into the time it takes to absorb the information. Only got three minutes? We have you covered. Want to wander endlessly through forums? Your wish is our command.
The bitcoin big bang in 3 minutes
Bitcoin, the poster boy of blockchain is where you’re probably going to want to start. This short animation by the Guardian gives it to you straight. It whizzes you through a brief history of digital money, the double-spending problem, how Mr/Mrs/Alien Overlord Satoshi Nakamoto solved it with bitcoin and how it will change money as we know it.
It provides a nice balance of the positives and negatives, and highlights how the code underpinning blockchain is free for anyone to copy - showing examples of coins that did copy bitcoin, such as the joke that never ends, Dogecoin.
Bitcoin explained and made simple, The Guardian
Blockchain’s disruptive potential in 20 minutes
So you’ve grasped the basics of bitcoin and you’re craving for more. A possible next step could be executive chairman of the Blockchain Research Institute Don Tapscott’s “The Blockchain Revolution,” a thorough walk through of the technology’s potential. A better option would be Tapscott’s 20-minute TED Talk on the same subject from 2016. While two years is an age in crypto-land, this talk has matured well.
“I believe that this is now the next generation of the internet.” Don Tapscott, from the TED stage
Tapscott explores cross-border transactions, the different ways governments and businesses have been experimenting with the technology and offers a gratifying glimpse into what the future might hold. This talk was ahead of its time.
Blockchain’s shady side in 25 mins
As part of your blockchain education, understanding how blockchain’s great potential can often be its great undoing is an unfortunate, but necessary part of your learning. Thankfully, Last Week Tonight host John Oliver explores the more scammy side in hilarious detail.
“Tonight we’re going to talk about cryptocurrencies. Everything you don’t understand about money combined with everything you don’t understand about computers.” John Oliver, Last Week Tonight
Trotting through ICOs, BitConnect’s admirable attempt at a Ponzi scheme and why on earth Ethereum-killer EOS hired an actor from the 1990s family favorite The Mighty Ducks as its spokesperson, Oliver offers clarity on blockchain’s growing pains.
Last Week Tonight, HBO
Ethereum’s great leap forward in 25 minutes
Bitcoin promises a new type of money. Ethereum, meanwhile promises a new type of, well, everything. The smart-contract platform wants to create a whole new way for people, businesses and even governments to conduct their affairs. Probably the best person to explain how it works is Ethereum’s Vitalik Buterin, the network’s co-founder and one-man-joke-machine.
In this 25-minute video, Buterin gives a whistle stop tour of smart-contracts, ether, gas prices and some of the magical things that can happen when the three get along. Make sure to watch out for his jokes, you’ll find them just before the crowd is stunned into silence.
Ethereum in 25 minutes, Devcon 2
Blockchain IRL in one hour
You’ve got the theory, now onto the practice, young padawan. A great way to understand how blockchain is being used out in the wild is via Forbes senior editor Laura Shin’s podcast series, Unchained. In each hour-long episode, Shin goes in search of entrepreneurs and finance experts building businesses using blockchain, bitcoin and ethereum.
A good place to start in the series - there are now 80 episodes - is “How to explain cryptocurrencies and blockchains to the average person.” (Listen here). Then move onto “The high-speed world of ICOs” followed by “What Makes a CryptoKitty Worth $140,000”. Before you know it you’ll be an expert in the Dharma protocol.
Bitcoin: the early years in 80 minutes
Bitcoin’s white paper came out in 2008, that was the same year Apple first announced its app store. How we survived we don’t know, what we do know however is that bitcoin has been around long enough to have accrued a history full of booms, busts and boat loads of great anecdotes, and Banking on Bitcoin covers it all.
The Netflix documentary explores the early years of the cryptocurrency via interviews with the likes of Charlie Shrem, Erik Voorhees, Gavin Andresen, and the Winklevoss twins. It also covers the ongoing battle between the new Bitcoin phenomenon and the ever-afraid lawmakers looking to shut it down.
Banking on Bitcoin, Netflix
The future of Bitcoin in 90 minutes
Andreas Antonopoulos has written the book on Bitcoin, literally. But it can be a bit technical in places. So we’re saying ignore his tome and listen to the interview he did on The Kevin Rose Show instead. In just ninety minutes he rattles through decentralization, bitcoin's volatility, transitioning to micro-streaming payments, Andreas' favorite wallet, decentralized exchanges, the future of ethereum and privacy coins like Zcash and Monero. See, told you this was better.
To catch more of Antonopoulos, he’s also the lead host on Let’s Talk Bitcoin.
Bitcoin’s true potential, The Kevin Rose Show
Understand what came before Bitcoin in a few days
How did one programmer come up with a digital cash solution, bring it to the world and stay anonymous? New York Times journalist Nathaniel Popper does an excellent job of answering - and ultimately debunking - that question by unearthing all those who worked with Satoshi to make bitcoin the phenomenon it is today. Hal Finney, Nick Szabo, Jed McCaleb and Argentine entrepreneur Wences Casares all get honorable mentions, as does some of the early prototypes that led to Satoshi’s eureka moment.
Digital Gold, Nathaniel Popper
Learning about new coins - this one might take you a while
Reddit, when not showcasing birds with human arms and advocating for rights for toasters does provide salient advice, especially when it comes to getting your head around the 1,600 currencies swirling around the interweb currently.
Most altcoins - they that are not bitcoin - have a subreddit with a “Welcome Newcomers!” post pinned to the top of the channel. These are a great resource that distills whitepapers and medium posts into simple guides that are often better than the official websites of the coins in question.
Each subreddit has its quirks, one of our favourites is r/Dogecoin where even the tipping bots speak the Doge dialect. Much wow.