A brief introduction to Bitcoin lore and Easter eggs
As the world’s oldest blockchain, Bitcoin is a popular place to hunt for hidden gems. It has storied lore within communities of cypherpunks, gamers, and cryptographers, and with millions of users across its 14 years in operation, there have been more than a few Easter eggs hidden away.
It took nearly nine years for the public to catch on to one such surprise hidden by Satoshi Nakamoto in Bitcoin’s genesis block — a headline from the London Times.
Later, somebody inscribed that same headline written backward in hexadecimal into Bitcoin transaction data.
Some of the world’s best-known memes have also found themselves immortalized on Bitcoin’s blockchain. For example, somebody added an early Rickroll as part of an on-chain argument over Catholic prayers embedded on the blockchain.
This argument didn’t stop people from including the occasional religious reference in the blockchain. Indeed, in January 2021, a user quoted the Christian Bible — specifically, Romans 12:21 — in Block 666,666 (Christians associate the number 666 with evil).
But it’s not just memes and petty squabbles that have led to information being stamped onto the Bitcoin network. Years before Casey Rodarmor’s 2023 reincarnation of Bitcoin inscriptions, someone inscribed Nakamoto’s original whitepaper via OP_RETURN data to ensure it stays accessible to anyone who knows how to explore the blockchain.
Clever users have even managed to embed tributes to Nelson Mandela and the orange Bitcoin logo.
More Bitcoin lore and curiosities
Users have hidden Easter eggs everywhere in the Bitcoin network and many take the form of something other than actual data on the blockchain.
For example, Bitcoin’s mining difficulty adjusts every 2,016 blocks. 2,016 is the semordnilap of 6,102, the number of an executive order requiring Americans to sell their gold to the Federal Reserve. The number pays homage to Bitcoin’s core vision of displacing the traditional finance system.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed that order into law on April 5, 1933. The text of Executive Order 6102 cited concerns about “hoarding” gold as a reason for the action. Building atop Bitcoin’s cultural rebellion against that 6102 order — and thanks to a drunken misspelling on December 18, 2013, by Bitcoin Talk user GameKyuubi — HODLING is perhaps Bitcoin’s most famous rallying cry.
It’s also worth noting that most people place Satoshi Nakamoto’s birthday on April 5, 1975. Executive Order 6102 occurred on April 5, 1933. Gold ownership was unbanned in 1975.
Another possible Easter egg implies that Satoshi Nakamoto considered calling Bitcoin “Netcoin.” Indeed, a day before Nakamoto registered Bitcoin.org, somebody registered Netcoin.org on the anonymous domain registrar AnonymousSpeech (Netcoin does exist as a largely abandoned altcoin but has nothing to do with Satoshi Nakamoto).
Read more: Did Taproot ruin Bitcoin with NFT inscriptions of monkey jpegs?
Strolling right past hidden bitcoin
Like miners racing to solve blocks for the Bitcoin blockchain, bitcoin prizes go to whoever can solve puzzles first. Artists and game developers hide prizes in their games, murals, or virtual artwork. Some of these prizes are still unclaimed.
For example, two clever players hid bitcoin inside the survival game No Man’s Sky. Players had to visit communications stations on two separate virtual planets to retrieve the bitcoin.
Dead Man’s Sky wrote a message on a virtual billboard that echoed the headline in Bitcoin’s genesis block: “Live life in confidence knowing your bank will take care of your future,” — a sarcastic dig at the traditional financial system.
MonteCrypto inserted a bitcoin prize for the first person who could solve a virtual treasure hunt in its game. The treasure hunt included clues set in a futuristic virtual world. It took two months for gamers to solve it.
In 2017, somebody discovered they can ask the Google Home smart speaker to speak to “Mr. Satoshi” — a computerized voice offering information about digital assets.
During a presentation before the World Economic Forum (WEF) in January 2015, DNA scientist Nick Goldman challenged attendees to find a bitcoin private key containing one bitcoin he had encoded in DNA samples. He was making the case that DNA could be used to store information besides genetic codes. Ph.D. student Sander Wuyts solved the puzzle in 2018, barely making the deadline Goldman had set to claim the prize.
The trading company Phemex hid a 2.1-bitcoin prize in an image of Dorian Satoshi Nakamoto. The image is shaped like a maze. This puzzle has not been solved yet. For context, Newsweek once published a piece theorizing that a person named Dorian Nakamoto invented Bitcoin. Dorian Nakamoto denied that, and Newsweek eventually backtracked.
An artist who goes by the pseudonym coin_artist worked with Rob Myers to embed five bitcoin inside art pieces. It took three years for somebody to solve the puzzle.
Street artist Pascal Boyart put 0.28 bitcoin inside a mural commemorating the Yellow Vest Protests in Paris, while Andy Bauch hid bitcoin inside images made using Lego. His art helps people unfamiliar with computer science to visualize some of Bitcoin’s cryptography.
Easter eggs exist everywhere on the internet, yet the Bitcoin network is a particularly popular place to hunt for them. Bitcoiners will unearth history’s Easter eggs for years to come. Indeed, Bitcoin lore can exist anywhere — even in the mural you just walked past.
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