170918 Email and #Bitcoin

In 1988, at least I think it was ’88, (I searched the internet for a reference but couldn’t find a mention of the story I’m about to tell you), as owner and president of a software company involved in postal bar coding, back in the day when it was largely unknown and not well understood by the general public, I was asked to join an advisory group organized by the postal service (USPS). It seems they had a new technology they were experimenting with and perhaps could have used our technology to help them implement it.

The idea was unique and sounded phenomenal. Instead of having to ship mail from one post office to 100 other regional distribution centers, especially good for a national mailing by a large corporation, they would send the text of the letter to each regional office where it would be printed in sufficient quantities to fulfill the local mailing requirements of that region by the post office.  In the beginning, they would restrict the service to just business letter type mailings.  Moreover, they would offer to pre-print business envelopes with corporate logos et al. to participating companies.  The companies would be charged reduced rates for all of the trucking and handling that would be saved.

Think of it.  Instead of 50,000 stuffed envelopes which would cost a company about $0.50 a piece to pre-print and another $0.24 a piece to mail cross-country, the company would have the post service send the text of the letter to a post service regional office, where they would print and stuff 50,000 letters and deliver them locally.  50,000 letters didn’t get trucked across the country.  It was a win-win situation for everyone.  What did they call this new service? EMAIL — Electronic mail from the Postal Service.  I kid you not.  They weren’t talking about using the internet.  The internet didn’t exist yet.  They were talking about sending it in some other electronic format from Post Office to Post Office.

What does any of this have to do with Bitcoin?  I’ll tell you.  That was an example of a great name and a great idea that never took off, never got implemented and never got used by the general public.  It died.  Why? Because the USPS is a government entity.  Government entities do not foster new ideas.  There is no one there to love and nurture a new idea.  There was no one there to get it going and overcome the inertia of the status quo.  There was no one there who would identify with the new idea, call it their own and wake up every morning thinking and breathing that new idea.  There was no one there who was going to live or die based on the outcome, the success or failure of that new idea.  So it died.

Bitcoin by last count, has 5.1 million unique owners who trade bitcoin an average of twice a month.  The idea was created by an individual, fostered and brought to life by a group, and allowed to grow and multiply for the past eight years.  It has every chance of success as large as the Internet EMAIL of today.  Email is so large, in fact, that it might do away with the postal service all together.  It is also interesting to note that email is decentralized, not owned by any one entity and has very loose, if any, governing bodies.  Sound familiar?