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Hal Finney (computer scientist)

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Hal Finney
Harold Thomas Finney II

(1956-05-04)May 4, 1956
DiedAugust 28, 2014(2014-08-28) (aged 58)
Resting placeCryopreserved at Alcor Life Extension Foundation
Known forFirst Bitcoin recipient

Harold Thomas Finney II (May 4, 1956 – August 28, 2014) was an American software developer. In his early career, he was credited as lead developer on several console games. He later worked for PGP Corporation. He was an early Bitcoin contributor, and received the first Bitcoin transaction from the currency's creator Satoshi Nakamoto.[1]

Early life and education[edit]

Finney reviewing mathematics at high school in 1972

Finney was born in Coalinga, California, on May 4, 1956, to Virginia and Harold Thomas Finney. His father was a petroleum engineer. Harold Finney II attended the California Institute of Technology, graduating with a BS in engineering in 1979.[2]


After graduation from Caltech, he went to work in the computer gaming field for a company that developed video games such as Adventures of Tron, Armor Ambush, Astrosmash and Space Attack.[3] He later went to work for the PGP Corporation with whom he remained until his retirement in 2011.[4]

Finney was a noted cryptographic activist.[5] During the early 1990s, in addition to being a regular poster on the cypherpunks listserv, Finney ran two anonymous remailers.[6] Further cryptographic activism included running a (successful) contest to break the export-grade encryption Netscape used.[7]

Finney was involved in the development of the first anonymous remailer, a tool for sending emails with the sender's identity concealed.[8] He was one of the early contributors to this privacy-enhancing technology, which played a significant role in the cypherpunk movement and the broader field of online privacy.[9] This work further demonstrated Finney's commitment to privacy and his significant contributions to the development of privacy-enhancing technologies.

In 2004, Finney created the first reusable proof-of-work system before Bitcoin.[10] In January 2009, Finney was the Bitcoin network's first transaction recipient.[11][12]

Bitcoin involvement[edit]

Finney was a cypherpunk and said:[13]

It seemed so obvious to me: "Here we are faced with the problems of loss of privacy, creeping computerization, massive databases, more centralization - and [David] Chaum offers a completely different direction to go in, one which puts power into the hands of individuals rather than governments and corporations. The computer can be used as a tool to liberate and protect people, rather than to control them."

He was one of the first Bitcoin users and on January 12, 2009,[14] he received the first bitcoin transaction from Bitcoin's creator[15] Satoshi Nakamoto. Finney lived in the same town for 10 years that Dorian Satoshi Nakamoto lived in (Temple City, California), adding to speculation that he may have been Bitcoin's creator.[13] Finney denied that he was Satoshi Nakamoto.[13]

In March 2013, Finney posted on a Bitcoin forum, BitcoinTalk, a publication called "Bitcoin and Me (Hal Finney)" where he states he was essentially paralyzed. He recalls finding out that Bitcoin had gained monetary value in late 2010 and mentions that despite amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) disease causing his ability to code to be slower, he still loved programming and that it gave him goals. He continued to program until his death; he was working on experimental software called bcflick, which uses Trusted Computing to strengthen Bitcoin wallets.

During the last year of his life, the Finneys received anonymous calls demanding an extortion fee of 1,000 bitcoin. They became victims of swatting – a hoax "where the perpetrator calls up emergency dispatch using a spoofed telephone number and pretends to have committed a heinous crime in the hopes of provoking an armed police response to the victim's home".[16] Extortionists demanded fees of more bitcoins than Finney had left after using most of them to cover medical expenses in 2013.[13]

Personal life[edit]

In October 2009, Finney announced in an essay on the blog Less Wrong that he had been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in August 2009, and wrote: "I hope to be able to read, browse the net, and even participate in conversations by email and messaging (...) I may even still be able to write code, and my dream is to contribute to open source software projects even from within an immobile body. That will be a life very much worth living."[17] Prior to his illness, Finney had been an active runner.[18] Finney and his wife raised money for ALS research with the Santa Barbara International Marathon.[19][20][21]


Finney died in Phoenix, Arizona, on August 28, 2014, as a result of complications of ALS and was cryopreserved by the Alcor Life Extension Foundation.[4][22][23]


  1. ^ Peterson, Andrea (January 3, 2014). "Hal Finney received the first Bitcoin transaction. Here's how he describes it". The Washington Post. Retrieved August 27, 2019.
  2. ^ Popper, Nathaniel (30 August 2014). "Hal Finney, Cryptographer and Bitcoin Pioneer, Dies at 58". The New York Times. Retrieved 2019-11-10.
  3. ^ "AtariAge". Archived from the original on 25 February 2015. Retrieved 24 February 2015.
  4. ^ a b Popper, Nathaniel, "Hal Finney, Cryptographer and Bitcoin Pioneer, Dies at 58" Archived 2017-09-15 at the Wayback Machine, The New York Times, August 30, 2014
  5. ^ "For instance, many ACLU members do not share the generalized antipathy toward government that is a common premise of "cypherpunk" activists like Hal Finney and Tim May." David Brin, The Transparent Society ch2
  6. ^ "Prospects for remailers - Parekh - First Monday". Archived from the original on 9 April 2013. Retrieved 24 February 2015.
  7. ^ "Give Us Some Credit: Your Card is Safe" Archived 2015-02-25 at the Wayback Machine, The Washington Post, 1996
  8. ^ Levy, S. (2001). Crypto: How the Code Rebels Beat the Government Saving Privacy in the Digital Age. Penguin Books.
  9. ^ Hughes, E. (1993). A Cypherpunk's Manifesto. Retrieved from https://www.activism.net/cypherpunk/manifesto.html
  10. ^ "Here's The Problem with the New Theory That A Japanese Math Professor Is The Inventor of Bitcoin". San Francisco Chronicle. Archived from the original on 4 January 2015. Retrieved 24 February 2015.
  11. ^ "Hal Finney received the first Bitcoin transaction. Here's how he describes it". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on 27 February 2015. Retrieved 24 February 2015.
  12. ^ "First bitcoin transaction ever". btcnu.nl. 2020-05-22. Retrieved 2020-05-23.
  13. ^ a b c d "The Little Black Book of Billionaire Secrets Nakamoto's Neighbor: My Hunt For Bitcoin's Creator Led To A Paralyzed Crypto Genius". Forbes. Archived from the original on 2014-03-26. Retrieved 17 April 2017.
  14. ^ "Hal Finney received the first Bitcoin transaction. Here's how he describes it". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2022-09-20.
  15. ^ "Satoshi Nakamoto". halvingbitcoins.com. 2 March 2023. Retrieved 2023-03-03.
  16. ^ Robert McMillan (29 December 2014). "An Extortionist Has Been Making Life Hell for Bitcoin's Earliest Adopters". Wired. Archived from the original on 3 January 2015. Retrieved 3 January 2015.
  17. ^ "Dying Outside". Archived from the original on 28 February 2015. Retrieved 24 February 2015.
  18. ^ Punzal, Barry (March 21, 2013). "In Finney home, Fran gives care, quality of life to husband Hal". Presidio Sports.
  19. ^ "Fight for a Cure for ALS: A Marathoners Story". October 13, 2010. Archived from the original on October 13, 2010.
  20. ^ "Hal and Fran Finney Are Running for a Cause". Archived from the original on 8 March 2012. Retrieved 24 February 2015.
  21. ^ "After a Year of ALS, Reality Begins to Hit Home for Hal and Fran Finney". Archived from the original on 25 June 2013. Retrieved 24 February 2015.
  22. ^ Max More (2014-08-28). "Hal Finney being cryopreserved now". Archived from the original on 2015-02-12. Retrieved 2014-08-28.
  23. ^ Andy Greenberg (2014-08-28). "Bitcoin's Earliest Adopter Is Cryonically Freezing His Body to See the Future". Wired. Archived from the original on 2017-04-07.

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