Hal Finney (computer scientist)

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Hal Finney
Born Harold Thomas Finney II
(1956-05-04)May 4, 1956
Coalinga, California
Died August 28, 2014(2014-08-28) (aged 58)
Phoenix, Arizona
Alma mater California Institute of Technology (B.S., Engineering, 1979)
Known for Reusable proof-of-work system
First Bitcoin recipient
Spouse(s) Fran Finney

Harold Thomas Finney II (May 4, 1956 – August 28, 2014) was a developer for PGP Corporation, and was the second developer hired after Phil Zimmermann. In his early career, he was credited as lead developer on several console games. He also was an early bitcoin user and received the first bitcoin transaction from bitcoin's creator Satoshi Nakamoto.

Early life and education

Finney was born in Coalinga, California in 1956. He went on to attend the California Institute of Technology, graduating with a BS in engineering in 1979.


After graduation from Caltech, he went to work in the computer gaming field for a company that developed video games such as Adventures of Tron, Armor Ambush, Astroblast and Space Attack.[1] He later went to work for the PGP Corporation with whom he remained until his retirement in 2011.[2]

Finney was a noted cryptographic activist.[3] During the early 1990s, in addition to being a regular poster on the cypherpunks listserv, Finney ran two anonymous remailers.[4] Further cryptographic activism included running a (successful) contest to break the export-grade encryption Netscape used.[5]

In 2004, Finney created the first reusable proof of work system before bitcoin.[citation needed][6] In January 2009, Finney was the bitcoin network's first transaction recipient.[7] He continued to program until his death; he was working on experimental software called bcflick, which uses Trusted Computing to strengthen bitcoin wallets.[8]

Private life, illness

In October 2009, Finney announced in an essay on the blog Less Wrong that he had been diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) in August 2009.[9] Prior to his illness, Finney had been an active runner. Finney and his wife Fran Finney raised money for ALS research with the Santa Barbara International Marathon.[10][11][12]

In March 2013, Finney posted on a bitcoin forum that he was essentially paralyzed, but continued to program.[13]

During the last year of his life, the Finneys received anonymous calls demanding an extortion fee of 1,000 bitcoin. They became victims of swatting - a hoax "where the perpetrator calls up emergency dispatch using a spoofed telephone number and pretends to have committed a heinous crime in the hopes of provoking an armed police response to the victim’s home".[14]


Hal Finney died in Phoenix August 28, 2014 and was cryopreserved by the Alcor Life Extension Foundation.[2][15][16]


  1. "AtariAge". Retrieved 24 February 2015. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 Popper, Nathaniel, "Hal Finney, Cryptographer and Bitcoin Pioneer, Dies at 58", The New York Times, August 30, 2014
  3. "For instance, many ACLU members do not share the generalized antipathy toward government that is a common premise of "cypherpunk" activists like Hal Finney and Tim May." David Brin, The Transparent Society ch2
  4. "Prospects for remailers - Parekh - First Monday". Retrieved 24 February 2015. 
  5. "Give Us Some Credit: Your Card is Safe", The Washington Post, 1996
  6. "Here's The Problem With The New Theory That A Japanese Math Professor Is The Inventor Of Bitcoin". SFGate. Retrieved 24 February 2015. 
  7. "Hal Finney received the first Bitcoin transaction. Here’s how he describes it.". Washington Post. Retrieved 24 February 2015. 
  8. "[ANN] bcflick - using TPM's and Trusted Computing to strengthen Bitcoin wallets". 2013-03-17. 
  9. "Dying Outside". Retrieved 24 February 2015. 
  10. Fight for a Cure for ALS: A Marathoners Story
  11. "Hal and Fran Finney Are Running for a Cause". Retrieved 24 February 2015. 
  12. "After a Year of ALS, Reality Begins to Hit Home for Hal and Fran Finney". Retrieved 24 February 2015. 
  13. "Bitcoin and me (Hal Finney)". 2013-03-19. 
  14. Robert McMillan (29 December 2014). "An Extortionist Has Been Making Life Hell for Bitcoin’s Earliest Adopters". Wired. Condé Nast. Retrieved 3 January 2015. 
  15. Max More (2014-08-28). "Hal Finney being cryopreserved now". 
  16. Andy Greenberg (2014-08-28). "Bitcoin’s Earliest Adopter Is Cryonically Freezing His Body to See the Future". 

External links