Blockchain technology, a culmination of old technologies

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by Lumai Mubanga

Old technology has proved to be the mother of new breakthroughs

To reinvent the wheel is to duplicate a basic method that has already previously been created or optimized by others.  As it has already been invented and is not considered to have any operational flaws, an attempt to reinvent it would be pointless and add no value to the object….diverting the investigator’s resources from possibly more worthy goals – wikipedia.org

The above statement is 100% true with regards to the invention of blockchain. The whole point is to avoid reinventing the wheel because it is a waste of time.

Blockchain is thus a combination of two  long-standing technological developments.The first one is distributed ledger technology, and the second one is  cryptography. The same holds true with bitcoins as a cryptocurrency. Its base is the blockchain which sits on the two old technologies. We see how human innovation is truly avoiding reinventing the wheel and the efforts are paying off.

Distributed ledger systems

What about a distributed ledger system? For  Bitcoin, a distributed ledger means that the information in the system is not stored in one single place. Instead, information is stored in different locations or multiple identical ledgers throughout the users of the system.  Distributed ledgers mean that there is no single place where the information and data are stored across different but identical locations. 

Distributed systems have long been in use. Computer networks played a big role in commercialising and operationalizing distributed systems. With hubs and routers coming in, distributed systems proved resilient and adaptable to new innovations. Network-based infrastructure which interlinked many nodes in different places paved the way to the success of bitcoins and blockchain technology. The wheel was not reinvented but human ingenuity leveraged on existing foundations.

Cryptography

Cryptography is a technology that involves secure storage and encryption of information. Invented before the computer era, cryptography has undergone various stages of change and improvement over the years. In our era though, it has taken on more of the mathematical nature than before, resulting in the art being used to create various algorithms that have contributed to making data secret. Thus, combining distributed ledger technology with cryptography, we have a system that is enhanced as a hybrid of the two old technologies but with modern features. These features are security, privacy and multiple location supported infrastructure, a perfect combination for totally new technology to emerge.

With blockchain finally in place, transactions 1 through 50, packaged in a block is encrypted together in a totally new way. The next set of transactions build on that first block, transactions 51 through 100 is encrypted as a second block. This new structure creates new attributes to a blockchain-based system. It provides for security. The layers of cryptography across multiple blocks make it very hard to break those blocks making blockchain potentially a highly secure and permanent system.

In other words, each of those transactions is recorded permanently in each of those blocks. That means that there is always a traceable history of all the financial transactions going back to the very beginning. Such a system supports traceability, an attribute which was absent in the original technologies. 

This combination of transparency,  permanence, security, makes blockchain a potentially very powerful platform technology across a number of areas, a truly new innovation based on old technologies.

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