Six years have passed since Hal Finney died of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Finney is known as one of the earliest supporters of Bitcoin (BTC), and one of the first to reply to Satoshi Nakamoto’s first message on the Cypherpunk mailing list. In the early days of Bitcoin, he was the only one who fully understood the possibilities of the technology without being overtly skeptical of its prospects.
Finney was one of the most famous cryptographers in the cypherpunk community even before he started working with Bitcoin. At the beginning of his career he worked for the PGP Corporation, Pretty Good Privacy computer software enabled users to encrypt their texts, emails and files. In 2004, Finney developed reusable proof-of-work (RPOW) software. Unlike Adam Back’s Hashcash and similar to Bitcoin, the proof of work was actually reusable, hence the name. This invention was one of the major steps on the way to Bitcoin, although Satoshi did not quote Finney’s work in his white paper.
The cryptographer Adam Back told Cointelegraph that he had had a few email conversations with Finney over the years. including a request for Back to Comment by RPOW. Though they never met in person Finney recalls fondly:
Well, I’ve never met him in person, but I consider him a constructive personality who is more interested in building things than discussing politics. While building things with Cypherpunk intent, he only focused on the constructive part of the conversation. I don’t think I saw him take part in online discussions on the Cypherpunks list.
Hal Finney was the first outside of Satoshi to start mining Bitcoin, and he was also the recipient of the first Bitcoin transaction. Although the progression of his illness was slow at first, he spent the last months of his life completely paralyzed. In his farewell post on Bitcointalk.org, he downplayed his stake in Bitcoin. Nonetheless, he is fondly remembered as one of the greatest contributors to the blockchain space.
Before his death, Finney and his wife Fran worked to raise awareness and resources for ALS. Since leaving, Fran Finney has carried on her husband’s legacy.