1 June 2020

We've had temperatures consistently above 20°C in the last week. In truth, the weather this week has been far too good to stay inside coding or playing video games, and I've been doing a lot of stuff in the Big Room like gardening and sorting out bee supplies.

It's not just the temperatures causing this, though. From today, the government are further relaxing the rules on the pandemic lockdown in England. The main change is that, as long as we socially distance, we are permitted to meet outside in groups of up to six people from different households. Controversially, some schools are even returning for particular year groups.

[Board games] This means that for the first time I can gather with my family and look after the children. We had a celebration for my birthday which was lovely, and I'm pleased to report my nephew chose an abstract strategy board game called Ingenious, playing which is an excellent use of the new freedoms we have to meet in gardens. Independently, I bought Hive, recommended by Nick, who seems to love board games more than anybody I know. There is a five-minute video by Mark Lim explaining how it works. It's also worth mentioning BoardSpace, a site I discovered today with lots of mostly abstract strategy games to learn about and try out if you don't yet have the opportunity to meet in the real world.

In the absence, then, of any progress on technical projects, here's a lesson about serendipity and hindsight, found while looking through some old blogger code I'd written years ago when I lived in Cambridge.

[Cryptocurrency] Times change, and since the COVID-19 market crash and with the halving on 12 May 2020 the price of Bitcoin has skyrocketed and stayed high in a relatively short time. With halving, the cost of making a transaction has inevitably shot up too.

So, with that established, here's the original update. I've only edited the formatting and removed dead links.

"A Bitcoin ATM", from 23 January 2015

This morning I went to an excellent first aid refresher course It was held at the St. John's Innovation Centre which appears to be home to lots of local tech companies. During the break, I wandered around the ground floor and came across a Bitcoin ATM, put there by a team from Anthemis group on the 30th of October, 2014. It looks like this:

A Bitcoin ATM in the St. John's Innovation Centre, Cambridge
A Bitcoin ATM in the St. John's Innovation Centre, Cambridge

Going for another look after the course had finished, I thought I'd give it a go. I first scanned the QR code at my Bitcoin page which belongs to the wallet on my home computer, and put a £20 note into the reader. Only notes are taken, because card transactions are reversible. £20 had bought one hundred and twenty-six 'millibits'.

You inserted a £20 note.
You inserted a £20 note.

The transaction went through and appears in block 340,171 of the main blockchain. You can view the transaction on Blockchain.info or Blockstream.info. I think the machine re-uses the same Bitcoin address for selling Bitcoins and for being replenished. Blockchain.info and Blockstream.info report that in the first three months, at least 6.44 Bitcoins have been sold by the machine, in at least fifty-two transactions. Of course there may be more from other addresses.

Cambridge appears to contain plenty of Bitcoin enthusiasts too. There is a community hub for Bitcoin and the blockchain here, and there are a handful of places to spend Bitcoins over the city. Next to the machine was a handy map of them. They are:

Two pubs, The Haymakers and The Devonshire Arms, which even provide a page to explain how the Bitcoin merchant service works; Your Sushi, providers of sushi-making courses; CeX, a shop which sells DVDs and computer games and Mill Road Butchers.

Where to spend bitcoin in the Cambridge of 2015.
Where to spend bitcoin in the Cambridge of 2015.

Maybe a pub crawl and barbecue, paid for solely with cryptocurrency, is something we could do this summer.

And on the tail of that final prophetic sentence, I'm sorry to report that I'm not wildly rich from this happy-go-lucky, curious accident. Not only do you have to be lucky to buy at the right time, you need to be lucky to sell at the right time.

I spent it all within months. Apart from anything else, the novelty of holding cryptocurrency had kind of worn off for me. Meanwhile, Bitcoin Core on my computer was gobbling up a more and more disk space every day as the blockchain grew and grew in size. I wanted it back more than I wanted 0.126₿.

The value of Bitcoin is very volatile (← alert: the f-word/annoying sound), and affected drastically by all sorts of factors. However, click here and weep for me when you see what that £20 became, and imagine what might have been if I had had a bit more in my wallet that day I was passing the ATM!

Easy come, easy go, right?