Hal Finney (computer scientist)

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Hal Finney
Hal Finney (computer scientist).jpg
Harold Thomas Finney II

(1956-05-04)May 4, 1956
DiedAugust 28, 2014(2014-08-28) (aged 58)
Alma materCalifornia Institute of Technology (B.S., Engineering, 1979)
Known forReusable proof-of-work system
First Bitcoin recipient
Spouse(s)Fran Finney

Harold Thomas Finney II (May 4, 1956 – August 28, 2014) was a developer for PGP Corporation, and was the second developer hired after Phil Zimmermann. In his early career, he was credited as lead developer on several console games. He also was an early Bitcoin contributor and received the first bitcoin transaction from Bitcoin's creator Satoshi Nakamoto.

Early life and education[edit]

Finney was born in Coalinga, California, in 1956. He went on to attend the California Institute of Technology, graduating with a BS in engineering in 1979.


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, Astroblast and Space Attack.[1] He later went to work for the PGP Corporation with whom he remained until his retirement in 2011.[2]

Finney was a noted cryptographic activist.[3] During the early 1990s, in addition to being a regular poster on the cypherpunks listserv, Finney ran two anonymous remailers.[4] Further cryptographic activism included running a (successful) contest to break the export-grade encryption Netscape used.[5]

In 2004, Finney created the first reusable proof of work system before bitcoin.[6] In January 2009, Finney was the Bitcoin network's first transaction recipient.[7]


Finney was a cypherpunk and said:[8]

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 an early Bitcoin user and received the first bitcoin transaction from Bitcoin's creator Satoshi Nakamoto. Finney lived in the same town for 10 years that Dorian Satoshi Nakamoto lived (Temple City, California), adding to speculation that he may have been Bitcoin's creator.[8] Finney denied that he was Satoshi Nakamoto.[8]

In March 2013, Finney posted on a Bitcoin forum BitcoinTalk that he was essentially paralyzed, but continued to program. 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".[9] Extortionists have demanded fees of more bitcoins than Finney had left after using the majority of them to cover medical expenses in 2013.[8]

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, a/k/a "Lou Gehrig's disease") in August 2009.[10] Prior to his illness, Finney had been an active runner.[11] Finney and his wife raised money for ALS research with the Santa Barbara International Marathon.[12][13][14]


Finney died in Phoenix, Arizona, on August 28, 2014, and was cryopreserved by the Alcor Life Extension Foundation.[2][15][16]


  1. ^ "AtariAge". Archived from the original on 25 February 2015. Retrieved 24 February 2015.
  2. ^ 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
  3. ^ "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
  4. ^ "Prospects for remailers - Parekh - First Monday". Archived from the original on 9 April 2013. Retrieved 24 February 2015.
  5. ^ "Give Us Some Credit: Your Card is Safe" Archived 2015-02-25 at the Wayback Machine, The Washington Post, 1996
  6. ^ "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.
  7. ^ "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.
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ "Dying Outside". Archived from the original on 28 February 2015. Retrieved 24 February 2015.
  11. ^ https://presidiosports.com/2013/03/in-finney-home-fran-gives-care-quality-of-life-to-husband-hal/
  12. ^ Fight for a Cure for ALS: A Marathoners Story
  13. ^ "Hal and Fran Finney Are Running for a Cause". Archived from the original on 8 March 2012. Retrieved 24 February 2015.
  14. ^ "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.
  15. ^ Max More (2014-08-28). "Hal Finney being cryopreserved now". Archived from the original on 2015-02-12.
  16. ^ Andy Greenberg (2014-08-28). "Bitcoin's Earliest Adopter Is Cryonically Freezing His Body to See the Future". Archived from the original on 2017-04-07.

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