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Bitcoin is a digital currency that operates independently of any central authority, government, or bank oversight. Instead, peer-to-peer software and cryptography are utilised.

All bitcoin transactions are recorded in a public ledger and stored on servers around the world. These servers, known as nodes, can be set up by anyone with a spare computer. Rather than relying on a central source of trust like a bank, consensus on who owns which coins is reached cryptographically across these nodes.

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Every transaction is broadcast publicly to the network and shared between nodes. Approximately every ten minutes, miners compile these transactions into a block, which is added permanently to the blockchain. This is the definitive ledger of bitcoin transactions.

In the same way that real coins are kept in a wallet, virtual currencies are kept in digital wallets that can be accessed through client software or a number of online and offline tools.

Bitcoins can currently be subdivided into seven decimal places: a milli is one thousandth of a bitcoin, and a satoshi is one hundred millionth of a bitcoin.

In reality, there is no such thing as a bitcoin or a wallet; there is only an agreement among the network regarding coin ownership. During a transaction, a private key is used to prove ownership of funds to the network. The concept of a “brain wallet” refers to the fact that a person only needs to memorise their private key in order to retrieve or spend their virtual currency.

 

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