Famously described at birth as a solution in search of a problem, it delivered a Nobel prize four years later, was in barcode scanners in shops 10 years after that, and in 1979 gave birth to the compact disc.
Not content with enabling digital audio, revolutionising many sciences and much else besides, it has since become the glowing heart of the global internet. Yay lasers.
In 2009, Bitcoin was invented – another solution in search of a problem. We don’t know its inventor. To date, this bastard technology has yet to solve any problem that needed solving, but boy, has it created a few. Let’s put it on trial for its life.
The underlying technology of Bitcoin, the distributed ledger of the blockchain, is undeniably cool and dangerously seductive to intellectual types. A tamper-proof public database that needs no central control and is both transparent and anonymous, it entranced mathematicians and computer scientists. It seemed then and still seems now that something that clever must be useful for something.