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Links and references
Recent publications of interest
A survey of attacks on Ethereum smart contracts - 24 Oct 2016 - good read!
Making Smart Contracts Smarter - 18 Jun 2016 - some sections are very technical
Princeton Bitcoin textbook
Princeton University is offering an online course on Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency Technologies at:
It was previously possible to download the textbook for free, but that is no longer the case.
European Parliament "DRAFT REPORT on Virtual currencies" dated 23.2.2016
This report is concise and to the point, with links to many recent papers published by various banking and government institutions.
Summary: Seven years after the launch of Bitcoin, it has become clear that DLT is set to have a significant impact on the financial sector and beyond. In the financial area, there is a potential for dramatically lowering transaction costs for payments, reducing the cost of access to finance even without a traditional bank account and simplifying payment mechanisms via interoperable electronic wallets. Post-trade management is another obvious use case. However, the potential of DLT goes well beyond the financial sector, with applications including smart contracts, intellectual property transfers, supply chain management and a number of government services. The use of DLT by government agencies is encouraged and a light-touch ("proportionate") regulatory approach is recommended.
The following definitions are given:
"virtual currencies (VCs) are privately governed digital representations of value denominated in their own unit of account and referred to as private digital cash, most notably based on distributed ledger technology (DLT) ..."
"DLT describes shared decentralised databases with varying levels of trust and resilience, with the potential to process large numbers of transactions rapidly, and with transformational capacity not only in the area of VCs but also in fintech more broadly speaking, where clearing and settlement might be one obvious application, and, beyond finance, especially with regard to proof of identity and property;
Historical background and references
A brief historical background as well as numerous links can be found at [https://en.bitcoin.it/wiki/Bitcoin].
Here is a summary timeline:
In 1982, David Chaum described a cryptographic system for untraceable payments
In 1988, Timoty C. May distributed The Crypto Anarchist Manifesto at the "Crypto '88" conference (referenced in Wei Dai's b-money paper)
In 1990, David Chaum created ecash.
In 1990-1991, Haber and Stornetta proposed a method to time-stamp digital documetns by linking issued time-stamps together into linear hash-chain, using a collision-resistant hash function, cf Linked timestamping. To improve efficiency, it was later proposed to group documents together into blocks, and to link the blocks together in a chain.
In 1998, Wei Dai published a short paper entitled b-money (referenced in Nakamoto's paper)
Around 1998 (?) Nick Szabo created bit gold, "a currency system where users would compete to solve a proof of work function, with solutions being cryptographically chained together and published via a distributed property title registry" source. See also Nick Szabo's blog post on Bit gold.
In 2008, Satoshi Nakamoto published Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System.