Bitcoin’s next frontiers: ATMs and Capitol Hill

new_frontier24 Jan 2014 / Washington Post – Vancouver, B.C. — The small monolith sits at the back wall of a downtown coffee shop. Canadians are a demure people, not known to shriek or hop, but they approach the Bitcoin ATM with the spooked wonder of those apes in “2001: A Space Odyssey.” Though drab and utilitarian, the machine projects an aura of the future, or maybe of suspicion, depending on one’s comfort with technology. The Bitcoin ATM, the first of its kind, takes cash or credit and spits out bitcoin.

Bitcoin is — well, it’s a thing you read about and don’t fully understand.

It’s referred to as a “cryptocurrency,” or a peer-to-peer electronic payment system whose transactions are encrypted and governed by many users on a public ledger. It’s not regulated or accepted by the government, and yet 0.00553 of a bitcoin will get you a mocha here at Waves Coffee House on Howe Street. So Bitcoin is definitely a thing, but its utility hinges on an agreed-upon fantasy, or at least collective blind faith — which you might also say about traditional banknotes, right? Yes?

[Editor’s note: In his freshman-year macroeconomics class, the reporter of this story received a C.]

North Vancouver resident Taylor Lewis feeds her credit card to the ATM, whose screen conjures a digital code that represents an amount of a bitcoin. She scans the code with her smartphone and walks away from the machine with a fraction of bitcoin in her virtual possession. Lewis came all the way into the city to get bitcoin for her brother, who lives in Toronto and was having trouble procuring the currency from online exchanges, where people buy and sell bitcoins at rates that have rollercoastered for the past year. Her brother asked her to buy from the ATM when one bitcoin was valued at $500 Canadian. At this point in early January, one bitcoin is worth nearly $1,000….. Read more

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