A Naive in the Wilderness: A Newcomer Looks at Cryptocurrency

Like most other people that have at least a rudimentary exposure to world news I became aware of cryptocurrency a while back in the form of Bitcoin. Television talking heads spewed thousands of words about it, journalists did their in-depth investigative pieces and the water-cooler boys had the opportunity to come up with a fresh batch of material to joke about.

The meteoric rise in the value of the bitcoin, followed by the equally-impressive plummet, only served to draw in my mind a parallel with the fiat currency system that is so hated by the “alt” crowd. It seems that they cry loud and long for non-regulation, for governments to keep their filthy hands off their stack, yet when a Mt. Gox goes down those same folks are screaming for justice - “They should sic the Feds after them for breaking regulations!”

Just from the perspective of a newbie, I don't think you can have it both ways. You either live under the safe, warm, smothering umbrella of Big Daddy or you pull on your spurs, strap on your six-shooters and walk bowlegged into Dodge (or is it Doge? I forget …).

Not User-Friendly

I have a confession to make: I'm not a total rube. I didn't just fall off the turnip wagon. I DO have a bit of computer knowledge. After all, I cut my eye-teeth on IBM dumb terminals with those phosphor-green screens like they had in War Games. My first home computer was a Commodore 64 with its delightful tape-drive storage system. I had an early version of a “portable” computer, that weighed about 25 pounds and came in a case the size of Ohio. I learned BASIC, COBOL and FORTRAN. I created an underground newspaper on my employer company's servers while working as a researcher at a major chemical company. I went through all the succeeding generations of home computers – Apple II's, Dell desktops, you name it, I tried it.

I've also created many blogs and websites using only Notepad, HTML and CSS. I've flirted with Java and made friends with PHP. I've pretty much mastered WordPress to the point where I no longer need to seek help on their terrible forums. I buy and sell domain names. I implement and modify scripts.

But the world of cryptocurrency blows all of that out of the water.

Invisible Money and Miners

If you could only see this world through my eyes – a world of invisible money, “miners” toiling in the depths of code, exchanges, wallets that are hot, cold, on-line and -off, brain wallets … add to that the Wall Street-ish appearance of tickers showing the constantly changing values of the alt coins and the cries of either elation or desperation by the speculators, and you have quite a little side-show.

Already I see on some of the bitcoin forums the emergence of the Illuminati – those who are too good to answer a newbie's questions, choosing instead to complain about “how many more times do we have to hear this question?”. Yeah, THAT makes for a real warm welcome. Of course, the fact that this reply comes from a seventeen-year-old should be some indication of exactly how wild and wooly this brave new world truly is.

Hi, Finance!

I realize that part of my confusion comes from not being a financial type – I've never taken notice of Wall Street except when I was crossing it on foot back when I lived in New York City. I've seen the clips of floor traders acting like a colony of ants that took a high-dose hit of methamphetamine and I've ridden the trains with them on their way back to their mortgaged castles in Scarsdale, and I've never wanted to be a part of their world. I don't like the idea of getting ulcers from my work – that's why I'm a writer. (!)

There is a wonderful series of articles on Devtome written by Wiser that I have been reading and re-reading that gives me a small amount of education about this new world. The Administrators I've met so far go out of their ways to accommodate a newbie and his silly mistakes without making fun of them too loudly. I realize that forums can be difficult places to learn anything of substance, but when threads in even the Beginner section of Bitcoin Forum throw me for a loop I know I have a long, hard road before me.

I also realize that I'm going to be one of those that the cognizati love to hate, because my financial plan as a Devtome writer is to take whatever Devcoins I earn and immediately turn them into cash to pay the bills. Hey, I'm a working stiff – I have bills. I can't just stuff those Devcoins under my mattress in hopes of them someday making me rich. This is my work, and my work pays my bills.

But I see now that it won't be that easy.


Earlier I said that I'm not a total techno-jerk, that I have some knowledge of breadboards and circuits. But here's one place I'm still in the Stone Age – I don't own a phone. Not a land-line, not a smart-phone, not even a pay-as-you-go Tracfone. I don't like phones, never have; in fact, one of the strongest allures of the Internet for me was that I could communicate with people without having to own a phone. I don't like the shrill, insistent scream of a phone causing my stomach to knot up at three in the morning, nor do I enjoy the Pavlovian response – the need – to answer that phone as soon as possible. Watching the Addicted Ones as they spend their lives updating their Facebook page on their 4” screens makes me nauseous, and seeing them text at 100 words per minute on a keyboard smaller than my library card just makes me dizzy.

So, no phone. But as I'm finding out, in order to even start an account at an exchange, much less use it (which, to my understanding, is the safest and most logical way to cash out your chips as opposed to, say, waiting in the back of Wal-Mart at midnight to meet “HornDog23” in hopes of him/her buying your Devcoins), you need a smart phone, one that reads QR codes. Now, the only time I've ever even SEEN codes like this has been on the bottom of a bag of sour cream and onion chips at Pantry Quik. I had no idea that in order to “cash my paycheck” one of the requisites would be an over-priced $600 piece of tech.

Of course, as one exchange told me in their oh-so-helpful FAQ, I could choose to go with Google Auth, supposedly a service that affirms and testifies that I am who I am. Great, except I don't have the smartphone to download the app. I could also send in copies of my driver's license, but I don't drive – gave it up as a bad habit quite a while back. I also don't own any other form of ID except a debit card with my name on it, and that hardly qualifies as photo ID.

Pirates and Nazis

Look, the entire reason I got into cryptocurrency is because it appeals to the pirate in me.

So I'm faced with multiple problems at this point – I can't get onto any exchanges until I buy a phone and go through all the rigamarole involved in THAT job; I can't supply identification to the Nazis that claim to be part of the regulation-free cryptocurrency movement; and I still haven't the foggiest about how exactly I'm going to transfer Devcoin from my wallet (if they actually get there in the first place), to an exchange for bitcoin, thence to someplace where I can trade the bitcoin for cash.

It all just seems a bit Alice in Wonderland-ish to me at this point. I'm working for shares of Devcoin, only to have to convert that “coin” into yet another invisible coin and then to find someone to buy my invisible coins for the much-needed and widely-accepted U.S. cash. Along the way it seems I'll have to prove I am who I claim to be several times over, wait long periods of time until my transactions are completed and I have cash in hand, and in the process will have become part of the smartphone crowd.

No doubt I'll get my first invitation to a rave from Siri. I'll be sure to tip her as soon as she tells me her wallet address.

Writing | Devtome Writers

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