Beginner’s guide to Bitcoin, cryptocurrency and NFTs

SAN ANTONIO – You could have heard the phrase cryptocurrency — or crypto, for brief — floating round within the present cultural second. If not cryptocurrency, possibly Bitcoin, NFTs, Blockchains. Maybe you have been launched to Dogecoin throughout Elon Musk’s latest Saturday Night Live look.

Any quick, casual dialogue of those ideas — whether or not a information section, a dialog with a co-worker or a glowing testimonial on social media — doubtless left you with extra questions than solutions. Why would one thing fully intangible, separate from any authorities or financial institution, have any worth? What can you purchase with cryptocurrency, and why wouldn’t you simply use a traditional foreign money? What if the facility goes out?

In this episode of KSAT Explains, we’re taking up the fundamentals of cryptocurrency, answering questions across the origins, makes use of, safety and future viability of this expertise. But, in the long run, it’s up to you to determine whether or not cryptocurrency is simply an Internet fad or the way forward for finance. (Watch the total episode within the video participant above.)


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The “crypto” in cryptocurrency comes from cryptography, the artwork of writing or fixing codes. Cryptography has at all times been a means to safe info, and cryptocurrency makes use of this precept because the spine for securing transactions and making certain authenticity. In reality, every particular person unit of cryptocurrency is simply a particularly lengthy string of numbers.

Bitcoin is the primary cryptocurrency. (Copyright 2021 by KSAT – All rights reserved.)

The first cryptocurrency — and doubtless essentially the most well-known — is Bitcoin, created in 2008 by somebody underneath the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto, who has develop into a kind of deity in on-line communities centered on cryptocurrency. Nakamoto is even getting a statue in Budapest.

The first recorded use of Bitcoin in a purchase order was a 2010 alternate of 10,000 cash for 2 Papa John’s pizzas. Today, that buy could be value round $350 million. But, whereas it’s an eye catching statistic, why? Where does this worth come from?


Conversations round why Bitcoin, or some other cryptocurrency, has worth typically shortly devolve into why any foreign money has worth.

“The first and most vital issue is acceptance. So for any foreign money to actually work as a foreign money, it wants to mainly be used for one thing,” stated Murtuza Jadliwala, an assistant professor on the University of Texas at San Antonio within the pc science division.

For cash-based programs across the globe generally known as “fiat currencies,” such because the US greenback, the worth is backed by a promise from the federal government. These currencies are clearly extensively used and handy — they’re accepted by a lot of companies, they’re simple to carry round in your pockets and their worth is basically steady.

(Graphic created by KSAT Producer Intern Jason Harward.) (KSAT)

Another financial system is credit score. In the context of the Internet, credit score is a handy means to make transactions on-line. However, one concern is privateness. Your financial institution and bank card firm can see how you utilize your cash, and safety breaches can typically go away your credit score susceptible to fraud.


So, a great way to take into consideration cryptocurrency is money for the Internet — nameless, safe, simple to use. But, in contrast to fiat foreign money, there isn’t a single one that decides the worth. It is at the moment tied completely to public opinion.

For supporters of the foreign money, that is truly a constructive, as there isn’t a entity to create more cash and artificially trigger inflation. In reality, there’ll solely ever be a most of 21 million Bitcoin in circulation. But, it’s exhausting to say this truly offers any stability — actually, within the two weeks earlier than we revealed this piece, Bitcoin misplaced greater than 1 / 4 of its worth.

Another instance of this volatility is the latest case of Dogecoin, a cryptocurrency that was explicitly made as a joke by its creator, a so-called “meme” coin. A couple of tweets from the eccentric entrepreneur Elon Musk, and the worth of Dogecoin skyrocketed. Now shifting between $0.40 and $0.60, the coin would have given early traders a return of round 14,000%. You would discover it troublesome to level to any asset all through historical past with that sort of development in such a short while.


This chart, from a report by Bank of America Global Research on Jan. 7, raised the query as to whether or not Bitcoin’s value transfer represents the “mom of all bubbles.” The chart appears to be like to examine the climb in Bitcoin as an asset in opposition to different belongings over the previous few many years, such because the “Dot Com bubble” or the US Housing bubble that induced the Global Recession. (Copyright 2021 by KSAT – All rights reserved.)

By now, you most likely have extra questions than solutions. So far, we’ve talked about a couple of crypto buzzwords like blockchain, mining and NFT. But, what are these items? Let’s dive in and take it on one by one.

To perceive what a blockchain is, it might be simpler to start from the issue it solves. If cryptocurrency is money for the Internet, there has to be a way to make certain every particular person unit is genuine and is definitely owned by the individual utilizing it.

“At the top of the day, it’s only a ledger,” stated Andrue Ferry, a cryptocurrency professional. “So each single time I ship Bitcoin, that info, that transaction, that quantity will get put into the Bitcoin blockchain.”

Every transaction is completely recorded on the blockchain utilizing advanced algorithms, run by miners who accumulate a small price for his or her providers. This makes it practically not possible to use faux cryptocurrency or have your cash stolen. In addition, the expertise retains each events nameless, making cryptocurrency preferable to credit score for Internet purchases.


Miners run software program on computer systems utilizing an algorithm that’s basically double checking the random assortment of numbers assigned to a transaction. (Copyright 2021 by KSAT – All rights reserved.)

The expertise has near-endless makes use of in enterprise and cybersecurity, appearing as an all-in-one financial institution and accountant. While it’s troublesome to record the entire doable makes use of, this article within the Harvard Business Review captures the immense potential this expertise has to actually harness the facility of a digital financial system.

One phrase you could have heard in connection to cryptocurrency is mining. In this context, the time period doesn’t refer to digging into the bottom and discovering uncommon metals, although it’s comparable — an arduous computational course of that rewards a miner with cryptocurrency.

“Usually these codes are hexadecimal and they’re like 200 digits lengthy,” Ferry stated. “And you could have to work out every a type of because it goes down the road. And as soon as you determine a full piece of the code, you get rewarded with the crypto.”

You could also be questioning whether or not you may ever interact with cryptocurrency with out years of expertise with pc science. And, whereas which may be obligatory to oversee blockchain transactions and mine for it instantly, many purposes enable you to simply buy and commerce cryptocurrency, reminiscent of Coinbase, Venmo, Cashapp, Robinhood and WeBull, simply to identify a couple of.


Producer Alex McCloud shopping for Dogecoin. (Copyright 2021 by KSAT – All rights reserved.)

One offshoot of this blockchain expertise is one thing known as a Non-Fungible Token, or NFT, which you could have most likely encountered, doubtless by laughing about somebody paying a daft sum of money for a digital asset.

Nyan Cat offered for about 300 Ethereum. (Copyright 2021 by KSAT – All rights reserved.)

Non-fungible, as is the identify, means it might’t get replaced. It is exclusive. Just as blockchain expertise can show authenticity and possession of a cryptocurrency, NFTs can do the identical factor with a photograph, video or actually something. NFTs might be hosted on any blockchain, however the most well-liked one is Ethereum, the second most dear cryptocurrency.

NFTs have been first used for precise paintings in 2017, though the expertise to create “colored coins,” an early predecessor to the NFT, has been round since 2013. But, the NFT craze didn’t actually begin till the previous 12 months. This digital authenticity is permitting digital artists a brand new means to monetize their work.


It’s additionally permitting sports activities leagues and celebrities to get in on the motion. A Tim Duncan highlight offered for $33,000. An NFT of Twitter founder Jack Dorsey’s first tweet offered for slightly below $3 million. A typical query could be, how is that this distinctive? A google search of Dorsey’s first tweet would enable you to have the exact same picture in your gadget. However, customers are paying for the one-of-a-kind authenticity, which might be confirmed on the blockchain.

If you end up asking why anybody would pay for unique possession of a digital asset, you’re not alone. Nobody actually has a transparent reply, and it appears it could get outdated as a celebration dialog fairly shortly.

Many steps of the processes associated to cryptocurrency devour quite a lot of vitality. Mining cryptocurrency, creating blockchains and recording transactions on the blockchains all take fairly a little bit of energy.


Computers mine for hours to make a single transaction or mine a fraction of Bitcoin or Ethereum. In reality, some fossil gas vegetation that had been closed due to lack of use have been re-opened by these looking for an influence supply to mine cryptocurrency.

Supporters of the expertise argue that vitality consumption is just not distinctive to cryptocurrency — they level to the vitality utilized in mining for uncommon metals in addition to the much less considered vitality consumption by bodily banking. Despite a large portion of crypto mining utilizing renewable vitality, one of many obstacles to large-scale cryptocurrency use is how a lot vitality every transaction makes use of in contrast to a bank card or money transaction.

One of the co-founders of Ethereum not too long ago introduced that he’s closing in on an replace that will minimize 99 p.c of vitality consumption, a transfer that would make vitality considerations associated to cryptocurrency transactions much less widespread. Improvements reminiscent of these put into perspective the brand new and evolving nature of the expertise.


At this early stage, it’s most likely incorrect to refer to cryptocurrency as a foreign money. Most individuals who purchase crypto see it as an funding, comparable to a inventory or a treasured metallic.

“It’s the identical factor as shopping for silver or gold or shares or bonds. You’re mainly simply taking your fiat cash, your {dollars} and placing it into one thing that hopefully will develop in worth,” stated Alex Eaton, who has been mining Bitcoin and talking about cryptocurrency for practically a decade.

As with the unlucky Papa John’s purchaser, it most likely wouldn’t be sensible to buy on a regular basis objects with one thing that’s set to improve exponentially. On the opposite hand, a enterprise could also be hesitant to settle for the foreign money if it might lose practically 30 p.c of its worth in just some weeks.

Even extra fundamental, many companies don’t have the back-end expertise to carry out the exchanges utilizing blockchain expertise. Although some giant firms at the moment settle for Bitcoin, reminiscent of Coca-Cola merchandising machines and Whole Foods, the overwhelming majority of companies don’t really feel the necessity.


“Most small firms and smaller retailers, they don’t need to get into that until there’s a large payoff,” Jadiwala stated.

In the quick time period, with no shift in how companies work together with it, cryptocurrency will doubtless stay a extremely risky funding. But proponents of the expertise swear by its revolutionary potential. They think about a future the place cryptocurrency replaces fiat foreign money and blockchain replaces banks, accountants and company legal professionals.

It’s exhausting to say whether or not they’re right or loopy. But, if you end up in a dialog about cryptocurrency, hopefully this episode has given you sufficient background to perceive what’s occurring.

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