A previously little-seen video of the late Hal Finney, a pioneering figure in the world of Bitcoin, has surfaced, shedding light on his groundbreaking work on cryptographic protocols, and giving a rare glimpse of his humanity.
In the video, recorded at the Crypto 98 conference, Finney is seen discussing zero-knowledge proofs, offering a glimpse of how many of the cutting-edge concepts still being tested for Bitcoin, are in fact, decades old.
“I want to prove to you that I know a message that hashes to a given hash value using the SHA-1 hash. I don’t want to reveal anything about the message to you. It’s a zero-knowledge proof, and I’ve written a program to do this that I’ll tell you about,” Finney says in the introduction.
From there, he proceeds to outline his motivation for this project, which was to explore the efficiency and practicality of zero-knowledge proof systems, particularly in handling complex and irreversible algorithms like SHA-1.
By selecting SHA-1, a notoriously intricate cryptographic hash function, Finney aimed to create a benchmark for evaluating zero-knowledge proof systems’ capabilities. He then highlights the zero-knowledge proof system he employed, based on the work of Cramer and Ivan Damgard, which had been presented at a recent conference.
Still, what has struck most commentators, including noted Bitcoin Historian Pete Rizzo, about the video was the rare glimpse of Finney himself.
Passing away in 2014 from complications with ALS, Finney is often depicted as he was after the launch of the Bitcoin project, needing the help of medical equipment in order to talk to others or even use a computer.
Because of this, reactions to the video were sometimes emotional. Finney is, after all, known to have worked with Satoshi Nakamoto on implementing the code for Bitcoin, something he did after the white paper was first announced on the cryptography mailing list in November 2008.
All in all, this rare video offers a glimpse into Hal Finney’s pioneering work, showcasing his dedication to pushing the boundaries of cryptographic protocols and laying the foundation for future innovations like Bitcoin.