TIL – The longest running blockchain produced its first block well before Bitcoin was born. Till this day you can find it (weekly) as a print in the classified section of the The New York Times.

First, blockchains don't always have to be related to cryptocurrency. At the core, a blockchain serves as a database that is maintained by a network of users and secured through cryptography. New information is added to the database and eventually stored in the blocks we all know. These blocks all have an unique ID, a hash. Together all the blocks create a chain of IDs which ensures the integrity of all the data stored on the blockchain. Altering the data in any block is near impossible since it would produce a different hash.

The basics of Blockchain, the chronological chain of hashed data, was first invented by the cryptographers Stuart Haber and Scott Stornetta, in 1991. Their use cases for the Blockchain were a lot less ambitious than Satoshi's. Instead, Haber and Stornetta envisioned the technology as a way to timestamp digital documents to verify their authenticity.

So, 14 years before Bitcoin was invented, Haber and Stornetta created their own time stamping service called Surety, and put their invention into action.

Instead of posting customer hashes to a public digital ledger, each week Surety creates a unique hash value of all the new seals added to the database and publishes this hash value in the New York Times. The hash is placed in a small ad in the Times classified section under the heading “Notices & Lost and Found” and has appeared once a week since 1995. Currently the longest running blockchain in the world.

The Hash (example)

Both Haber and Stornetta left Surety a long time ago. They went back into doing research, but today both of them work also work as cryptographers on other blockchain projects.


Happy weekend, cheers!

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17 thoughts on “TIL – The longest running blockchain produced its first block well before Bitcoin was born. Till this day you can find it (weekly) as a print in the classified section of the The New York Times.”

  1. Ive tried finding out what chains Haber and Stornetta are invovled it, but no luck. Do you have any additional info?

  2. It’s fascinating how the original vision of blockchain was rooted in authenticity and data integrity, long before the rise of cryptocurrencies. Haber and Stornetta’s innovative use of a newspaper to publish hashes adds an almost poetic layer to the concept of a “chain” of trust.

  3. That’s a fact I didn’t know. Thanks for sharing it!

    Also insane to think people were working on these things since the 90s (and before). Glad to be where we’re at.

  4. Very interesting! It makes me wonder if there are other paper-based blockchains out there…

  5. People are making a mistake when they think that blockchain was invented with Bitcoin and Satoshi.

    However, Satoshi was the first one to implement it in such a great way that it exploded and nowadays we have BTC and blockchain as we know it.

    Before that, yes, there were some blockchain tech, but nobody was paying attention to it. At least not in the way we have it today. I actually thought that most people are aware of this.

    Bitcoin came into being in 2008 as the first application in the History of Blockchain Technology..

    So, just think about it. 1991-2008. That is 17 years of difference. Satoshi really understood what is up and how to implement it.

    1991: In 1991, researcher scientists named Stuart Haber and W. Scott Stornetta introduce Blockchain Technology

    1992: After that in 1992, Merkle Trees formed a legal corporation by using a system developed by Stuart Haber and W. Scott Stornetta with some more features.

    2000: In the year 2000, Stefan Konst published his theory of cryptographic secured chains, plus ideas for implementation.

    2004: In the year 2004, Cryptographic activist Hal Finney introduced a system for digital cash known as “Reusable Proof of Work”.

    2008: After that 2008, Satoshi Nakamoto conceptualized the concept of “Distributed Blockchain” in his white paper: ”A Peer to Peer Electronic Cash System”.

    Here is a good link with the source: https://www.geeksforgeeks.org/history-of-blockchain/

    Great post by the way.

  6. I found some interesting (additional) informations about Surety:

    • Built on the ISO/IEC 18014-3 and ANSI X9.95 Trusted Time Stamp standards, the AbsoluteProof Service from Surety ensures the integrity of electronic records, files or any digital content by establishing that they were created at a specific point in time and have not been tampered with since. It is the only long-lived, independently verifiable data integrity protection service in the world.

    How it works?

    • AbsoluteProof protects the integrity of your electronic records and files by cryptographically “sealing” them using an AbsoluteProof Seal. This Seal binds a “digital fingerprint” of your file to a reliable timestamp representing the current time. This fingerprint is unique to the file so that even the slightest change in it will cause the fingerprint to change. Fingerprints are computed using what is called a secure hash function, and therefore, they are also referred to as hash values. The AbsoluteProof Sealing process is depicted below.

    It is important to note that during the “sealing” process, the customer’s records or files never leave the customer’s network. Only the file fingerprint is sent to Surety. There is no way to obtain information about the original content from the file’s fingerprint. (Source)

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