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.
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. He later went to work for the PGP Corporation with whom he remained until his retirement in 2011.
Finney was a noted cryptographic activist. During the early 1990s, in addition to being a regular poster on the cypherpunks listserv, Finney ran two anonymous remailers. Further cryptographic activism included running a (successful) contest to break the export-grade encryption Netscape used.
In 2004, Finney created the first reusable proof of work system before bitcoin. In January 2009, Finney was the bitcoin network’s first transaction recipient.
He was an early bitcoin user and received the first bitcoin transaction from bitcoin’s creator Satoshi Nakamoto. Finney lived in the same town for 10 years that Dorian Satoshi Nakamoto lived, adding to speculation that he may have been Bitcoin’s creator. Finney denied that he was Satoshi Nakamoto.
In March 2013, Finney posted on a bitcoin forum BitcoinTalk that he was essentially paralyzed, but continued to program. He continued to program until his death; he was working on experimental software called bcflick, which uses Trusted Computing to strengthen bitcoin wallets.
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”.
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. 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.
Hal Finney died in Phoenix August 28, 2014 and was cryopreserved by the Alcor Life Extension Foundation.
It seemed so obvious to me; Here we are faced with the problems of loss of privacy, creeping computerization, massive databases, more centralization - and Chaum offers a completely different direction to go in, one which puts power into the hands of individuals rather than governments and corporations. The computer can be used as a tool to liberate and protect people, rather than to control them.
— Cypherpunks Mailing List in 1992.