A recent discovery by a technologist has sparked a wave of speculation that the late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs may have been the mysterious inventor of bitcoin, the world’s largest cryptocurrency.
Andy Baio, a former chief technology officer of Kickstarter and founder of XOXO Festival, wrote in a blog post on April 5 that he accidentally stumbled upon a PDF copy of the original bitcoin white paper on his Mac computer. The white paper, titled “Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System”, was published in 2008 by an anonymous author using the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto. It laid out the blueprint for a decentralized digital currency that operates without intermediaries or central authorities.
Baio said he found the document while trying to fix his printer, and realized that it was hidden in a folder called “VirtualScanner” within the macOS system. He said he verified that the document was present in every copy of macOS since Mojave in 2018, and speculated that it was either a prank by an Apple developer or a tribute to Nakamoto.
His revelation quickly went viral on Twitter, where some users suggested that Jobs himself could have been Nakamoto, given his visionary and secretive nature. They also pointed out that Nakamoto disappeared from the public eye in December 2010, less than a year before Jobs died of pancreatic cancer in October 2011.
“Was Steve Jobs actually Satoshi Nakamoto the creator of #bitcoin?” tweeted Lark Davis, a bitcoin investor and blogger with 1.1 million followers. “Plus Satoshi disappear in December 2010, and then Jobs passed in October 2011. The timelines fit…”
Others were more skeptical, noting that Jobs was not known for his programming skills, and that he was busy launching the iPhone and iPad around the same time as bitcoin. They also argued that Jobs’ philosophy of creating elegant and user-friendly products did not match with Nakamoto’s complex and cryptic code.
The true identity of Nakamoto has never been confirmed, despite numerous attempts by journalists, researchers and enthusiasts. Some believe that Nakamoto was not a single person, but a group of people who collaborated on the project. Some of the candidates who have been proposed or claimed to be Nakamoto include Australian computer scientist Craig Wright, Japanese-American engineer Dorian Nakamoto, and cypherpunk activist Hal Finney.
The presence of the bitcoin white paper on Mac computers is not the first time that Apple has hidden Easter eggs or references to its culture and history in its products. For example, every iPhone has a folder called “DCIM” that contains photos taken by the device. The acronym stands for “Digital Camera IMages”, but it also pays homage to Susan Kare, a graphic designer who created many of the iconic icons and fonts for Apple in the 1980s. Her initials are SK, which is DCIM in hexadecimal notation.
Another example is the “About This Mac” window that shows information about the computer’s hardware and software. If users click on the Apple logo several times, they can see different versions of Apple’s famous “Think Different” slogan, such as “Think Big”, “Think Ahead”, or “Think Creatively”.
Whether these hidden messages are intentional or accidental, they show that Apple has a rich and playful history that often intersects with other aspects of technology and culture. And while it is unlikely that Jobs was Nakamoto, it is undeniable that both have left a lasting legacy on the world