Three Things You Didn’t Know About Bitcoin

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Updated: March 21, 2016


I keep hearing about bitcoin as the next frontier in currency, but until recently didn’t really understood how it worked or what it was. I know it is virtual and that I can’t touch it, but there is so much more, so here are some fun things you might not know about this digital money.

1. Multiple police agencies have paid criminals with bitcoin. Using a virus called “ransomware,” files on victim’s computers are scrambled requiring a key to unlock and decode the files. Usually the ransomware is hidden in a hyperlink in an email, which then can infect the computer of even the entire network. After trying to unencrypt the files using experts and in some cases even calling in the FBI, several police departments have ended up paying the ransoms in bitcoin to get their data back. Though the FBI doesn’t take an official stance on paying to unlock these encrypted files, several FBI agents have suggested that paying the ransom is the most reliable and efficient way to get your data back.
2. Bitcoins are mined. This isn’t the traditional form of mining, but a kind of record keeping task that is used to verify and collect new transactions and is also related to the creation of new bitcoin. Mining has been set up to only allow for a limited supply of bitcoins, which helps keep the value of bitcoins high. Miners are volunteers and are rewarded with bitcoin for this task. In 2015 the electricity used to run all of the computers mining bit coin equaled 1.46 terawatt-hours, or enough power for 31,000 US homes. Though miners are not paid in any currency that is recognized by a bank, many are able to turn their volunteer job of Bitcoin mining into a full time income.
3. All the things I can buy with bitcoins. I first thought that bitcoin could only purchase services from people in the tech underworld. What you can really buy with bitcoin is surprising. Here is just a sample list of how to spend bitcoin:
New computers from Dell and New Egg
Home furnishings, kitchen gadgets, and sheets from overstock.com
Airline travel through CheapAir.com and Air Liuanica
Beer from Honest Brew in the UK
A Diamond engagement ring from REEDS Jewelers
Tickets to basketball games through the NBA Franchise the Sacramento Kings
Hotel Stays with Expedia and Holiday Inn
On-line dating services from OK Cupid

In addition bitcoinshop.us has a market place where you can get items from watches to air conditioning system, but only ships within the US. Still if you can’t find a business that will directly accept your bitcoins for the goods and services you want, you can go to sites like GiftCardZen or EGifter and find a gift card for many merchants including Walmart, Target and Amazon, so I guess that means you can even get your groceries with bitcoin.