The 21 Bitcoin Computer: Now Shipping

by Balaji S. Srinivasan (@balajis)

The 21 Bitcoin Computer ships today. We’d like to take this opportunity to thank our earliest customers for making us an Amazon bestseller, and talk a bit more about what the device can do today.

Out of the box, the 21 Bitcoin Computer can be set up from an existing Mac, Windows, or Linux laptop or run as a standalone Linux machine. Once you’ve set it up, we’ve included several simple tutorials that give you a sense of what the device can do. You will learn how to:

These are just the first few applications on the 21 Bitcoin Computer, and are enabled by the hardware and software toolchain bundled with the device. We’ve posted a detailed introduction as well as full articles on how mining, micropayments, the command line interface, and the library work within the 21 system, but here are a few items of particular note:

  • 21 mine. The 21 mine command gives you bitcoin on demand — at the command line or within a library — through something we call “buffered pool mining”. Our goal is to minimize the extent to which you need to care about the global hashrate when mining bitcoin for programming purposes. We do this by supporting both continuous background mining of bitcoin and “foreground mining”, in which you can get an instant hit of bitcoin for programming use by materializing future mining proceeds on demand. Read more here and here.
  • 21 update. We’ve built the 21 Bitcoin Computer to get better over time. Every time you run the 21 update command, it will check our servers for the latest 21-related code and install it on your machine if a new version is available. This means you’ll get new apps, sample code, and tutorials to look forward to with every update. And it also means that we can improve things at the network level, such that bitcoin-denominated commerce across the whole peer-to-peer network of 21 Bitcoin Computers gets better in concert.
  • 21 Micropayments. The 21 Bitcoin Computer ships with two forms of peer-to-peer micropayments out of the box (on-chain and off-chain transactions, respectively), and the next 21 update will enable support for a very important third form: payment channels. As a developer, you can decide which one to use for your application. Read more here.
  • The 21 Network. We’ve configured each 21 Bitcoin Computer for true peer-to-peer networking. Specifically, after running 21-join, you will get a virtual IP that enables you to directly buy and sell digital goods from any other developer connected to the same virtual 21 Network. This is particularly interesting as each 21 Bitcoin Computer is a server, and therefore equipped to be a persistent small-scale seller of digital goods.
  • The 21 Developer Community. Once you’ve joined the 21 Network, you can meet other 21 developers in our new online community at Drop by to find other people interested in this technology, and other 21 Bitcoin Computers to buy and sell digital goods and services. A forthcoming 21 update will add full support for marketplace features at the command line as an automated complement to this community.

So, that should give you a sense of what the 21 Bitcoin Computer is today. It’s an integrated hardware/software device that is built to connect to other devices of its kind, to be updated in sync at the network level, and to integrate with an online developer community. It provides a stream of bitcoin to buy digital goods and services, the tools to quickly set up simple micropayment servers to sell these goods, and a set of demonstration apps along with the libraries to build your own.

We want to make clear that this is absolutely a first generation product, and it is meant for developers comfortable with the command line. But we think that by setting up a 21 Bitcoin Computer and joining our developer community, you’ll be able to explore what a future internet might look like if every node was constantly generating bitcoin and using it to engage in automated bitcoin-denominated machine commerce with its peers.

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