Speculations over the late Hal Finney being the anonymous creator of Bitcoin – Satoshi Nakamoto – runs abound in the crypto industry. However, new analysis by a self-proclaimed cypherpunk and co-founder of Bitcoin custody firm Casa, Jameson Lopp, has proven otherwise.
Hal Finney was a computer scientist and one of the few people to respond to Satoshi Nakamoto’s initial post on the cypherpunk mailing list. This made him the first person besides Satoshi to download and run Bitcoin’s software, also making him the first recipient of Bitcoin.
A blog post published on 21 October by Jameson Lopp laid out a compilation of evidence in proving that Hal Finney and Satoshi Nakamoto were different people.
A key point of argument revolved around a 10-mile race that happened on 18 April 2009 in California. Finney was one of the many participants in the ‘Santa Barbara Running Company Chardonnay 10 Miler & 5K’. He started the race at 8:00 am Pacific Standard Time and finished it in 78 minutes.
Interestingly, this was the time when Satoshi Nakamoto was involved in a mail conversation with one of the first Bitcoin developers, Mike Hearn. Timestamps corresponding to these mails proved how it coincided with the race.
Referring to archived emails publicly released by Hearn in the past, Lopp pointed out how Hearn was “emailing back and forth with Satoshi during this time”. He added: “What can we determine from all of this? Satoshi sent the email to Mike at 9:16 AM Pacific time – 2 minutes before Hal crossed the finish line.”
One can be quite sure that Finney was not interacting with a computer in that hour and 18 minutes when he was running, proclaimed Lopp. Adding weight to his analysis, Lapp also brought in some on-chain data.
As per Hearn’s emails, Nakamoto sent him 32.5 $BTC in one transaction. This transaction took place on block 11,408, which was mined at 8:55 am PST. During this time, Finney was already 55 minutes into his race. Nakamoto then confirmed this transaction, along with another one involving 50 $BTC, in an email that was sent at 6:16. According to Lopp, this happened while Finney was still running.
Later in life, Hal Finney was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). This was also the time when Satoshi was working on code and posting on various forums. Finney, on the other hand, was quite affected by ALS, hindering his ability to use a keyboard.
Lopp also highlighted a 22 August 2010 post from Hal Finney’s wife, Fran Finney, where she talked about how Finney’s battle with ALS had slowed his typing from a “rapid-fire” 120 words per minute to a “sluggish finger peck”. This was when the couple attended the 2010 Singularity Summit in San Francisco on 14–15 August. During these days, Nakamoto was observed performing four code check-ins and also wrote 17 posts on various forums.
There were several differences in Finney’s Reusable Proofs of Work code compared with the original Bitcoin client code, said Lopp. However, at the end of his blog, he also acknowledged the possibility of objections to his theory and evidence.
Despite being an early supporter of Bitcoin, Finney had always denied the theory of him being its creator until his passing in 2014. In one of his last posts on Bitcointalk.org, he downplayed his possibility of the same by revealing how he Satoshi had sent him 10 coins as a test, making him the recipient of the first Bitcoin transaction. Finney also shared having email conversation with Satoshi over the next few days, where he reported bugs in the system for Nakamoto to fix them.
When Hearn published the emails in 2017, it was around a time when other Bitcoiners lost trust in him over disagreements on how to scale Bitcoin. Lopp also considered Finney scripting the emails and transactions in advance and also the possibility of the existence of more than one Satoshi Nakamoto.
He then ended his post agreeing to the idea of keeping Nakamoto’s identity as anonymous saying: “It is better for Bitcoin that Satoshi not be a man, for men are fallible, fickle, and fragile. Satoshi is an idea; it is better that all who contribute to Bitcoin be an embodiment of that idea. As such, I pose to you that it is to the benefit of Bitcoin that we crush any myths of Satoshi’s true identity.”