E-cash inventor David Chaum on making a comeback, pre-empting bitcoin, and keeping Satoshi anonymous

David Chaum occupies a peculiar position in the peculiar world of crypto. He isn't one of the teen-genius cryptographers or a 20-something blockchain CEO. He moves among the upper echelons of "insiders," but also seems to remain staunchly on the periphery. He's an OG, but also a novelty.

But regardless of the 63-year-old's status today, his place in crypto history is undisputed. Having founded DigiCash in 1989, the world's first electronic money system, he is known as the forethinker of digital currencies. He holds that crown tightly, with DigiCash having made him a temporary icon. "People recognised me in the 90's because of all the media attention ... I was clearly way ahead of anyone else doing it," he tells The Block in Paris. He's not exaggerating; Chaum's invention of a digital bearer instrument (DBI) offered individuals the right to transfer virtual assets without having to share personal information (as with physical cash; there are no records of whose hands it passes through).

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