A Short History of the Genesis Block
The Genesis Block is the original block in the Bitcoin blockchain. Also called Block 0, it is the foundation on which all other blocks are built. Without the Genesis Block, you cannot create new blocks, and there will be no blockchain.
The Genesis Block came from the originator of Bitcoin himself, Satoshi Nakamoto. He wrote it using Microsoft’s visual studio and in C++, which was a stark difference from the specialized graphics cards developers are using today. He was the only one who mined it at that time because no one else knew what it was.
He began mining it on January 3, 2009, and continued for six days. The length of the process is still an enigma to Bitcoin miners and enthusiasts because the average timestamp for mining a block is just 10 minutes.
Why did it take Satoshi six days to mine the first block?
Experts say that Satoshi was thoroughly testing the Genesis Block to make sure it was perfect since it would be hardwired into the system forever.
Another mysterious aspect of the Genesis Block is the message Satoshi etched in its raw data.
“The Times 03/Jan/2009 Chancellor on the brink of the second bailout for banks.”
The message was the headline of the Times of London on January 3, 2009. The news was about the failure of the British government to stimulate the economy after the 2008 financial crisis. Many have wondered what spurred Satoshi to imbue that specific message in the Block’s raw data.
Most, if not all, believe that it is Bitcoin’s mission statement and reflects Satoshi’s principle. The enigmatic Satoshi envisioned Bitcoin to be different from other currencies because it uses the blockchain technology which has no intermediary and no corporation backing it.
The Genesis Block also serves as the regulator of Bitcoin production. With Satoshi’s code, the total number of Bitcoins will never exceed 21 million BTC.
What is the 50-Bitcoin Reward?
When Satoshi created the Genesis Block, he placed 50-Bitcoin reward inside. No one can touch nor spend those 50 Bitcoins. No one knows whether he placed it there intentionally or unintentionally.
Whatever his reason was, the Genesis Block has become synonymous with Satoshi. Just as he was the father and the backbone of the whole project, so is the Genesis Block the backbone of the blockchain. It has also become the standard for other altcoins derived from Bitcoin – that they will have an initial unspendable block.
In honor of Satoshi, people have been sending Bitcoins to that unspendable address as a tribute to the father of the cryptocurrency. By its eighth anniversary, in 2017, the Genesis Block had received 1,073 transactions since the day it was created.
Genesis Block Component
A hash is the encrypted output of an algorithm whose input is a series of numbers and letters. The hash has a fixed length, and it plays a vital role in the blockchain.
The Genesis Block Hash is 000000000019d6689c085ae165831e934ff763ae46a2a6c172b3f1b60a8ce26f. It contains two more leading hex zeroes than are required for an early block.
The coinbase is what’s inside the input of a generation transaction. That data inside the coinbase can be anything. The generation transaction is different from routine transactions in that it does not require any parent transaction. It can also create new coins and produce any arbitrary data.
The Genesis Block used the headline of a Times article published in 2009. The message says, “The Times 03/Jan/2009 Chancellor on the brink of the second bailout for banks.”
The block reward refers to the new Bitcoins awarded to miners when they solve a block successfully. As a standard, the Bitcoin network followed Satoshi’s example and started the number of rewards at 50 BTC for the first block up to the 210,000th block. Then, it halves for every subsequent 210,000 blocks.
The Genesis Block reward of 50 BTC went to this unspendable address: 1A1zP1eP5QGefi2DMPTfTL5SLmv7DivfNa
When a miner successfully mines a block, it is given a Unix time timestamp, which differentiates each block hash from every other. The time stamp also serves as security, so no one can manipulate the blockchain.
The usual time to mine each bitcoin block is 10 minutes, but it took Satoshi six days to mine the Genesis Block. Many theories have been proposed, but Satoshi hasn’t spoken up and given his reason.