Thank you, Hal Finney

Posted by Theron Harmon on August 30th, 2014

Thursday morning, Hal Finney, one of the greats in the worlds of bitcoin, cryptography, computer science, privacy, and in the larger world of the internet, died after many years living with ALS.

Hal was there at the beginning. He was the recipient of the first bitcoin transaction sent to him by the enigmatic Satoshi Nakamoto. He helped build bitcoin. Even before bitcoin, Hal played a major role in the early cypherpunk movement and in PGP encryption.

He was a man who championed liberty, even as his body succumbed to ALS – trapping his brilliant mind inside.

We are also honored that Hal was a supporting backer of the Life On Bitcoin film project. In his memory, we are donating $100 to the ALS Foundation.

Here is a short video Austin made to honor Hal.

Further reading:  

An April 2014 audio piece
from March

Austin and Beccy Become First Dish Customers to Use Bitcoin

Posted by Theron Harmon on August 14th, 2014


This morning in Central Park, New York City, Beccy and Austin became the inaugural DISH and Dish Anywhere customers to pay their bill in bitcoin.

“We’ve used bitcoin for MANY different purchases, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more smooth, easy interface.

And after using DISH for just a few days (they installed ours last Friday) I can tell you that you’ll be impressed with their offering. TONS of movies, channels, and the ability to record and watch anything from any smart device, anywhere. We’ve been recording and watching our favorite shows while we’re 2000 miles away from home!”

Learn more about DISH and bitcoin on their blog

Watch our blog for a full update on the post-production status in the next few days.


#LifeonBitcion Update: 3 Months Since

Posted by Austin Craig on February 13th, 2014

We concluded our experiment as we returned home from Singapore, on November 2, 2013. In total, Beccy and I lived on bitcoin for 101 days. It’s now been exactly that long since we finished. A lot has happened in that time.

When we finished, a single bitcoin was worth roughly $200, BTC China was fast rising to become the world’s largest exchange, neither nor Newegg had announced any bitcoin plans, and Mt. Gox appeared to be healthy and happy. The price of bitcoin had been on a steady rise.

And kept rising.

As the price of bitcoin rose, media interest in our film rose with it.

Max Keiser was ahead of the pack, as he often is. He invited us to be on his show in London. Having just taken three weeks off work for our global trip, Beccy stayed in the States, and Austin went to London.

While there, The Wall Street Journal arranged a followup interview after we talked with reporter Paul Vigna in New York three weeks earlier. Austin also met up with with the fantastic staff from Coindesk. They were kind enough to name us one of the best bitcoin merchant pioneers of 2013.

NPR’s “Here & Now” interviewed us for their national broadcast, as well as the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

We had interview requests coming in daily from a wide variety of media outlets, from local to global, niche to general interest. Austin even went to New York again for an interview. Some never aired, but hopefully will soon.

From the Wall Street Journal, to Al Jazeera, to NPR, a lot of major media outlets wanted to hear our story.

From the Wall Street Journal, to Al Jazeera, to NPR, a lot of major media outlets wanted to hear our story.

When the price dropped at the beginning of December, media requests slowed a bit, but our lives didn’t. The Inside Bitcoins conference in Las Vegas was a unique experience. It was fascinating to be with such a large group who not only understand bitcoin, but believe in crypto-currency’s future, both as a financial opportunity, but a force for good in the world.

Throw into the mix Beccy’s seasonal business, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years, and we had a full calendar for the last couple months of 2013.

We even squeezed in a screening of the footage our crew is working with.
Life on Bitcoin Screening
From 200 hours of raw footage of me and Beccy, the editors cut down to about 3 hours. We’ve seen a chronological run through of the major points that will be in the documentary, but there’s plenty still to work on. They’re now cutting the narrative together, weaving in the story of bitcoin itself, with dozens of interviews. We also will add motion graphics explaining some of the finer mechanics of bitcoin and currency in general, an original score, titles, and translations into several languages.

Starting out on a project like this is a big leap of faith. None of us have made a feature film before. But after the better part of a year of planning and filming and editing, you know what? It looks like we’ll have a film everyone can be proud of, including you, the supporters of this project.

I’m looking forward to meeting you when we debut the movie. Here’s hoping we make it to your town.

Bitcoin’s Place in Tech Evolution

Posted by Austin Craig on January 22nd, 2014

Note: I wrote this several weeks ago, prior to Marc Andreesen’s op-ed in the New York Times. I haven’t published it till now because I was submitting to major publications for consideration, including the New York Times.

A friend and I were talking on Facebook the other day, when he asked a question I’ve heard a lot lately.

“Does anyone really USE bitcoin?” he asked. “It seems that most people hold onto their bitcoin… unless they’re shooting a documentary.”

Given our experience living on bitcoin, Beccy and I find ourselves in a unique position to answer the question. It might not be the answer you’re expecting.

Yes, people use bitcoin. It gets used today for remittances, foreign exchange trading, micro-payments where traditional transactions would be cost prohibitive, and trade in places where there are political/economic conflict. Think about areas in Africa with rampant inflation, or buying a digital download from a musician in Iran where no Western bank or money transmitter is allowed to legally operate. And of course, bitcoin as a payment for regular goods is growing all the time, as the recent announcement shows.

These are just some of the use cases today, but they don’t reveal the full picture of what bitcoin can and will soon do. It’s like asking “Does anybody use the World Wide Web?” in 1993.

Bitcoin is a crypto-currency, which itself is based on a new type of technology. Call it “blockchain” technology, where a distributed, ongoing ledger creates a transparent history of exchanges that can’t be counterfeit, because people can view the ledger, and there are millions of copies. It relies on a “proof-of-work” algorithm and an accompanying electronic protocol. TCP/IP is the protocol that made the Internet possible. HTTP is the protocol that made the hyperlinked World Wide Web possible. There are other protocols that made file transfer, torrents, video streaming, and email possible. They act as platforms on which we can build any number of services. We use them every day, and they’ve been driving the global economy (and accompanying quality of life improvements) for years.

Consider bitcoin in the wake of the global bank bailouts, which from 2008 to date have siphoned $30 trillion. It’s an unfathomable amount of money going toward increasingly unpopular institutions. Despite the ebb and flow of the Tea Party and Occupy movements, nobody in their right mind thinks we’ve fixed the underlying financial and political problems; we’re not out of the woods. Unlike a bank or any corporation, bitcoin will never need a bailout.

But at its core, bitcoin is about much more than money.

The possibilities with blockchain technology are enormous, and currency is just the first application. This emerging technology has implications for stock shares, bonds, commodities, corporate governance, insurance, accounting, contracts, and every industry that relies on a trusted third party to move information or value.

This is part of a much broader global trend toward de-institutionalizing information work.

The blockchain will make it possible to do things that previously required formally organized groups with offices and hierarchy and expensive overhead. In the near future, blockchain technology will do it all through an automated, secure, and reliable software protocol.

This is a development on par with double entry accounting, developed in Italy in the 13th century, which forever changed business by verifying every transfer of money. It’s comparable to the Internet itself in how it connects the whole globe, accessible by anyone, to a navigable information space for virtually anything they want to say, hear, or otherwise communicate.

Bitcoin, and the underlying blockchain technology, is disruptive innovation writ large.

Think about the metaphors we use for our global information system: the net, the web, the cloud. Each of these describes a distinct evolutionary phase of that system. As another friend of mine recently observed, the next step is what bitcoin has brought us: the chain.

Imagine, again, speculating about the internet’s future shortly after its inception. Wikipedia, which itself wouldn’t exist without the evolution we’re talking about, sheds some interesting light on this:

“The Internet’s takeover of the global communication landscape was almost instant in historical terms: it only communicated 1% of the information flowing through two-way telecommunications networks in the year 1993, already 51% by 2000, and more than 97% of the telecommunicated information by 2007.”

We’re seeing it again—the same kind of obscure technical innovation, difficult to explain at first, then universally understood and relied upon 20 years later. There are strong indicators that it could even be bigger and faster this time.

This is just the beginning.

Post-Production Status Report

Posted by Theron Harmon on January 16th, 2014

Our filmmakers Travis Pitcher and Joseph Lebaron and their team at The Good Line are deep into the post-production process. Documentary filmmaking is about understanding your subject matter, but it is also about properly organizing your footage when you shoot it and then again when you edit it, to tell an engaging story. Experienced documentarians carefully index the footage as they shoot it, and take time during each filming day and at the end of the day to note the scenes with the most promise.

The material involved in our project includes more than 200 hours of footage of Austin and Beccy during their 100 plus day experiment of living on bitcoin. We also have between 50 and 60  interviews which we shot over the course of the project. Additionally, there are several more interviews which we are hoping to get to complete the story.

The Life On Bitcoin experiment ended in early November when Austin and Beccy returned from their around-the-world trip. The Good Line had a couple of other projects/clients requiring attention during November. So although editing began in November, the heavy editing really got going in December.  Our original plan was to see a rough cut before the Christmas holiday.  However, anybody who has been involved in making a film or in any entrepreneurial endeavor for that matter readily understands that things do not always proceed as planned.

The Good Line put five people on the editing including Travis and Joseph themselves. Without warning, four of the five got hit with health issues / sickness in a two week period. David, (the awesome cameraman / editor who was with us in Atlanta) is a heart surgery survivor. He wasn’t feeling well one day, and ended hospitalized for several weeks. Another one of the editors suffered an acute appendicitis, and had to have his appendix removed. Joseph was wiped out with one of a diagnosed case of the H1N1 virus which he contracted while he was traveling to Hong Kong, and an episode of bronchitis simultaneously. Josh, the Good Line’s designer got hit with a nasty, prolonged flu.

Needless to say, the health issues were causing our team to drop like flies and set us back several weeks for the rough cut.

A rough cut, sometimes called an assembly cut, is basically a collection of the best edits compiled to flesh out the story. It is devoid of animations, soundtrack, sound and color mastering, etc. The filmmakers are faced with the daunting task of reducing those 200+ hours and all the interviews to 2-3 hours of the best footage.

The Good Line diligently editing.

The Good Line diligently editing.

The exciting news is that this rough cut is going to be ready this week! All the non-filmmaking members of our team will travel to Salt Lake tonight to watch this assembly cut and discuss and make suggestions.

According to The Good Line, and notwithstanding the delay from illnesses, they are still on track to have a polished film by late April, unless we run into unforeseen complications. We already have a composer working on the soundtrack, and we have folks working on the design and the look and feel of the film.

Before anyone gets really excited, we need to make sure your expectations are properly set. We will not likely be able to distribute the film to our supporters immediately following completion. Our various mentors in the film distribution business have encouraged us to first submit the film to major film festivals to achieve our greatest chance at wider distribution and maximum exposure. Some of these festivals have strict rules governing digital distribution. The distribution plan is still somewhat fluid and being mapped out. Please know, our goals remain the same:

1) We want to make our backers and supporters happy and

2) To get the film in front of as many eyeballs as possible to educate them about bitcoin and open the door to the incredible personalities in the bitcoin community.

We want the film to project a global reach. We are doing what we can to put in place a distribution plan which will help us achieve that.

As always, we are grateful to our supporters and backers from the bottom of our hearts.

-Theron H.

#BitcoinBlackFriday – Here is our Haul

Posted by Austin Craig on November 30th, 2013

First thing first, the Thanksgiving holiday was great for Beccy and me. We really enjoyed ourselves with food and family. It was a nice rest from the regular work routine.

But the rest didn’t last too long here in the US, as the day after Thanksgiving is “Black Friday”, the biggest shopping day of the year. And seeing as the Bitcoin community is growing like crazy, it’s also now Bitcoin Black Friday, a day to not only do your holiday shopping, but to support your favorite bitcoin merchants!

We didn’t buy a ton, but we did want to participate. Here is what we got.

Ever since we visited the Bee’s Brothers place up in Logan Utah, we’ve been big fans of their honey products. They offered %20 off today for Black Friday. Who can resist? I love the raspberry caramels, and Beccy loves the honey roasted almonds.
Picture 38
I’ve gotten more and more interested in paper wallets, and the proper procedure of making and storing them, so I bought some tamper proof holographic stickers from
Holographic Stickers

We also wanted to focus more on giving during this holiday season, and what better way to start than to donate to Sean’s Outpost and Satoshi’s Forrest? We met Jason King at the Crypto-Currency Conference in Atlanta, and really believe in what he’s doing there. Keep up the great work, Jason.

It was a great day, and a great start to a season of celebration. I think we all have a lot to celebrate lately, with how well bitcoin and crypto-currency are doing, coming out from the cold and into the lime light. Onward and upward from here. Cheers, all, and happy holidays!

Feeling Thankful

Posted by Theron Harmon on November 28th, 2013

Today, the United States celebrates Thanksgiving. Throughout the day, I have reflected on the value I place on my closest relationships and family, on the spiritual and temporal blessings, material comforts, opportunities, and employment I enjoy.

Thanksgiving is a United States holiday, yet far more than half the Life On Bitcoin audience is international. I am still choosing to write a Thanksgiving post, because gratitude is something which I believe should be shared.

When I came up with the concept for the Life On Bitcoin film, I had no idea how big or impactful our little side project would become. In many ways, we’re still discovering. Yet, we have been floored and humbled by those who have shared our vision and helped with this project.

Since Thanksgiving is about sharing gratitude, and, I think, acknowledging the role of others and of God in our lives, today, we want you to know that we’re thankful for each of you.

We’re thankful for our contributors and sponsors. We’re thankful for the internet and for the doors it opens, and for the global connections it makes possible. We’re thankful for innovators, risk takers, entrepreneurs, dreamers and doers. We’re thankful for cryptography and the promise it holds in shielding human freedom and privacy. More broadly, we’re grateful to be part of the global bitcoin community. The people of bitcoin are some of the kindest, most intelligent, proactive, and generous people we have ever encountered, and it is a privilege and honor to work among you.

We are also thankful to be a small part of, what I believe, could be a global revolution towards a more honest form of money. History is being made, and the advent of crypto-currency, blockchain technology and the bitcoin protocol will one day likely be remembered and ranked with many other great technological leaps: the internet, the automobile, the telephone, the personal computer, and so on. It gives me chills to contribute a small role in it.

So whether you are in the United States or somewhere else in the world, Happy Thanksgiving.

-Theron H.

#LifeonBitcoin Day 85 – Road Trip Update, and Bitcoin Pamphlet for Merchants

Posted by Austin Craig on October 16th, 2013

It’s Wednesday morning in Chicago, day 5 of our road trip and round the world journey. While we knew there was a lot to do on this trip, it’s surprisingly tiring. There is a lot of driving, planning, and changing plans. So far, though, we’re on schedule.

We’ve met up with bitcoiners in Denver, Kansas City, and now Chicago. We’re excited to meet up with more in Pittsburgh, New York, and then off to Stockholm, Berlin, and Singapore.

We’ve been so caught up in the trip that I haven’t posted something I promised I would; the pamphlet we put together for merchants considering bitcoin.

The trifold pamphlet is very simple. With the text of the pamphlet, we didn’t go in to deep detail about bitcoin. We’ve found that becoming highly technical will lose many more merchants than it will help. This is just a first contact, very basic intro. This is something you can leave in their hand, with your contact info written on the back.

Pamphlet Preview 2
Pamphlet Preview
Download Pamphlet PDF Here

Here is a sequence that may help you bring a business around to accepting bitcoin. Use and modify as you see fit.

1. Find merchants that you think are in a good position to begin accepting bitcoin (see our blog post about which merchants are likely candidates). Be brief, and leave this pamphlet.

2. Return within a few days (no longer than a week) and discuss the possibility of bringing a “bitmob”, or a larger group of people all paying in bitcoin. If they’re open to the idea, send them setup instructions for a payment processor, like Bitpay or Coinbase. Approval for these merchant accounts can take a few days, so make sure they understand and apply for an account at least a week before your prospective bitmob. If they’re still concerned, you may want to consider putting cash down on the spot (maybe $100) to put their fears to rest. Call it a down payment on the upcoming group dinner, and they can take it out of the bill when you call come for the bitmob.

3. Find out when they’ve been approved for the merchant account. There are still a couple things they need to do to finalize the account, like connecting it to a regular bank account. Run a trial purchase to make sure everything is up and running. You’ll be their first bitcoin customer!

4. On a pre-designated night, when you, the merchant, and local bitcoiners have all agreed, show up with your local bitcoin meetup and have a great time! This is a fantastic activity to help spread bitcoin and enjoy yourselves all at once.

If you feel like your merchant will need more time through all this, introduce them to paper wallets or real coin bitcoins, like casascius coins. “They’re like gift cards“, you can say. Leaving something in their hands, even a paper wallet worth 5 satoshi, will help them become more comfortable with bitcoin.

As I finish writing this, it’s Wednesday afternoon, on the road from Chicago to Pittsburgh. We’re only a few days into our round the world trip, but it’s already feeling like a whilrwind. It’s coming together, thanks to the support along the way from the bitcoiners we encounter. Thanks everyone. Wish us (continued) luck.


Crypto-Currency Conference Wrap-up

Posted by Austin Craig on October 8th, 2013

We just returned from the Crypto-Currency Conference in Atlanta, and all I can say is WOW!
Just kidding, I have a lot more to say than that.

But first, a history lesson.

In 1975, a group of 32 technical enthusaists in Menlo Park California got together in Gordon French’s garage. They were excited to talk about what could be done with a new gadget that had just arrived, the Altair 8800. It was a computer, like the livingroom sized mainframes that some of these technicians had worked on, but much smaller. “Personal”, you might say, at least in size. But in practice, the device wasn’t very personable.

The Altair was clunky and unfriendly, but these proto-computer nerds were intent on making it better. They could see the potential of the technology, and it was world changing. So that’s exactly what they did. They changed the world.

Among that group of 32 was Lee Felsenstein, inventor of the first portable computer system, Jerry Lawson, inventor of the first cartridge fed video game system, some of the first computer hackers in the world, and Steve Wozniak, inventor of the Apple 1 and cofounder of Apple Computer Corp.

It’s a rare confluence of brilliant personalities that make a revolution like that possible. You might say the Homebrew Computer Club, while quite different in demeanor and specific skill, was not unlike the Constitutional Convention of the United States. Each group was brought together by common personal interest. Each group was comprised of minds uniquely suited for a task at hand, a task that had never been done before. And each group, in very short order, invented a new system that changed the course of human history.

I might be stepping out on a limb here to make such a big claim, but I think it’s happening again.

From beginning to end, the Crypto-Currency Conference was brilliant; the characters engaging, the insight dazzling. Even a fly on the wall would remember the people seen, from Jeffrey A. Tucker‘s double-breasted suit and bow tie to Phinnaeus Gage’s overalls and straw hat, tags still dangling, to Jason King’s unchallenged beard.

This conference also brought a unique perspective to the table. Emphasis on the liberating aspects of cryptocurrency was higher than you’d expect from a Silicon Valley based conference. Yes, there are fortunes to be made with bitcoin, but those fortunes only come if the decentralized, voluntary alternative currency is used. Cathy Reisenwitz shared why a free society needs a free monetary system, and Daniel Krawisz explained the special value that cryptography should have to anybody of a libertarian mind. In a way, the conversations blended what you might hear at the Consitutional Convention and the Homebrew Computer Club.


Beccy and I shared our experiences so far, explaining what obstacles we encountered, how we got over them, and what obstacles still lay in front of us. We expect our coming journey will be challenging and rewarding. In reality, the journey for bitcoin itself might be similar.

Our presentation is viewable below.

In short, it was a blast. We’re glad we could be a part of it, and we’re very looking forward to next year.

What iOS 7 Tells Us About The Rise of Bitcoin

Posted by Austin Craig on September 23rd, 2013

Apple’s iOS 7 saw it’s major rollout last week. Millions of people upgraded and suddenly had a new phone. There were some features added, but what really makes iOS 7 different? From the very first iPhone in 2007, why is this the most notable iOS change to date?

Because it got rid of one thing. Skeuomorphs.

BEGIN SKEUOMORPH EXPLANATION: Skip down if you don’t need this.

What is a skeuomorph? It’s when new design deliberately retains the appearance of former design necessities. Examples will be more helpful here than further definition or description.

The 1986 Chrystler LeBaron - With that classy "Wooden Car" feel to it.

Why does this metal and plastic car have a wooden veneer? It’s a skeuomorph. We design like this for a couple reasons. Nostalgia is one. It gives a “classic” feel, like something that’s stood the test of time. The other reason is more functional: Recognition. Skeumorphs make the work of introduction and explanation less necessary. I know what it is and how it works, because it looks like another thing that I’m already familiar with.

Up until recently, Apple was the heaviest user of the skeumorph of any product designer in the world. It was woven througout their design. Here are just three examples in iOS6 app icons.


What do you see here? Leather and stitching. A folder with tickets. One *very* old fashioned television. We recognize them right away, because these materials and devices have been around for at least decades, spanning the better part of a lifetime. We’re comfortable with them. We don’t question them. We understand them.

But for anybody under thirty, and probably many under forty, these metaphors stop working. I’ve never owned a knob dial television. The only time I’ve used one was at my grandfather’s house in rural Canada, where there were, in total, three channels to watch. Frequently all three were playing hockey. It’s probably not a memory any business wants to rely on to communicate their message.

The implicit imagery instruction isn’t necessary. I’ve been using YouTube for 8 years now. I don’t even own any TV.

I’m a digital native. If you’re reading this, more than likely, so are you.

That’s why with iOS 7, the skeuomorph has been done away with. Icons are no longer lit with artificial light. They don’t give the appearance of physical badges or buttons. And we won’t see any digital interface passing itself off as an item from your dead-wood-physical desk at home.


So what does any of this have to do with bitcoin? Well, like I said, I don’t own a TV. I’m a digital native, and I watch Netflix, Hulu, and mostly YouTube.

You know what else? I don’t carry cash.

My whole adult life, I’ve carried credit or debit cards, and increasingly I don’t even use those as much. I prefer online banking and money trasfer services like PayPal or Venmo. I undestand those services. They make sense to me. I’m accustomed to them. I’m a digital native. So are you.

Cash is a skeuomorph. It looks and feels like a bank note exchangeable for deposited precious metal. It’s not. The US dollar hasn’t been backed by precious metals since the Nixon administration. Whether people know it or not, they’re already using virtual currency. We just don’t need the metaphors and stand-ins anymore.

It probably wasn’t intended, but Apple’s aim at the digital native supports the notion that it’s time for bitcoin; time for a digital native currency.