A Guide to Finally Understanding Blockchain

148

You’ve probably heard of it

You know it’s important and that it’s going to be massive someday, maybe very soon – you also know that it’s being used more and more in unique ways to make human lives easier and better, but it is inherently a mysterious topic. The very name of blockchain seems miasmic as your mind grasps at straws to understand its cryptic nature – the truth, however, is much more obvious. More Microsoft Excel than The Matrix.

But what is it?

The two most common myths about blockchain according to Techweez, are that it is either a form a cryptocurrency or a programming language – it is neither, however it was created in relation to the former.


Blockchain could be better understood as a technology, or a ‘way of coding and storing data’ that can be used for making cryptocurrencies safe and private to use, as well as a variety of other purposes, especially in areas where data needs to be stored securely. It can be coded in C++, C#, Java and JavaScript, the highly accessible Python, Golang, Rust or even the Solidity language.

Blockchain’s domain of influence isn’t only in sectors of IT and finance. Its main advantages of transparency and security increase the efficiency of whatever company it is being used in. There are many newer examples of blockchain being used by the agriculture and energy sectors for increased gains in efficiency and yield.

And, as our worlds become more and more integrated with hyperspace and the realms of online, cybersecurity is becoming more important than ever. The growth of blockchain technologies is only natural then, seeing as the most common uses for it are data validation and identity protection.

Okay, but what is it?

Blockchain is named after exactly what it is – a chain of blocks, but in the digital context. The ‘blocks’ represent digital information stored in a public database, or the ‘chain’.

According to Investopedia, the blocks on the blockchain are made up of digital pieces of information about transactions like date, time and dollar amount of your most recent purchase.

The blocks store information about who is participating in what transaction, as well, storing your name as a sort of digital signature. When information is stored in a block it uses a unique cryptographic code called a “hash”. Hashes are created by a special algorithm that ensures that all blocks are utterly unique and completely distinguishable from each other.

The usual dogma for storing data on a blockchain then is as follows:

A transaction occurs -> The transaction is verified, confirming the details of the transaction

-> The verified transaction is then stored in a block -> The block must be given a hash

Once hashed, your data will be stored in the blockchain. A quick glance of what Bitcoin’s blockchain currently looks like should also help in wrapping your mind around this all.

Is it safe?

One of the main advantages of blockchain is that, since it acts as a distributed ledger across thousands (or hundreds of thousands in the case of Bitcoin) computers, for the information on a blockchain to be manipulated, a hacker would have to go through every single copy of the blockchain on the network of everyone connected to the blockchain in question.

Also, if any information on a block is altered, so will is the block’s respective hash code – however, the previous block on the chain will contain the original hash code of the block before it. A hacker would have to go down the list of blocks, changing hash code to hash code ad infinitum.

Although the transactions are not completely anonymous, all personal information is scrubbed, leaving only your nickname or signature.

How can I work with blockchain right now?

It is estimated that the yearly worldwide spending on blockchain solutions will surpass $12 billion by 2022. Familiarity with the inner workings of blockchain is a highly valued skill in both today’s and tomorrow’s market.

If you’re hoping to learn how to code blockchain, you can now do so online through interactive courses with the Solidity language which is a more accessible language that is quicker and easier to use than more established languages like C++.

And although skeptics and elitists will tell you Solidity is not worth it because it only works in the cryptocurrency Ethereum’s ecosystem – do not be discouraged as Ethereum is an industry giant, handling over 36 thousand transactions every day and because of this Solidity is one of the most widely used blockchain languages on Earth.

As more and more companies and industries begin to use blockchain within their systems, having a basis with Solidity can be a great way to stay ahead of the curse and secure yourself a position of importance for years to come.

By Luis Monzon

Follow Luis Monzon on Twitter

Follow IT News Africa on Twitter