World’s First Bitcoin ATM Goes Online
Bitcoin, the world’s leading digital currency, took a big step towards legitimizing the whole field this week with its first ATM. The machine in a Vancouver coffee shop provides a rare link between physical currency and the online-only one, and plans are in the works for more.
Bitcoin was first proposed by an anonymous programmer in 2008, and went live in 2009. The currency is not regulated by any central authority or backed by any government. It is generated using cryptography to mimic the control of a central authority.
The digital money’s value shot to a high of $233 before dropping to $50. It reached another peak of $197 this month. They are accepted at a limited number of websites for goods and services- and now at Waves coffee shop.
The ATMs are made by Robocoin, a Las Vegas-based company that has built several, but not placed any others yet. Previously, Bitcoins could only be acquired and transferred online, in a sometimes lengthy process.
Users can use the machine to deposit cash for Bitcoins or withdraw any of 60 currencies- provided they scan their hand first. The palm scan is used to ensure that users do not go past daily limits, which would violate Canada’s anti-money laundering laws.
Some of the currency’s biggest draws are its anonymity and security, but this and resistance from major governments have made Bitcoin closely associated with online crime. When the FBI this month shutdown Silk Road, a site that allowed users to buy and sell drugs for Bitcoin, the bureau seized an estimate 1.5% of the world’s supply of the money.
The currency gained positive publicity recently when a man gained media attention for reportedly earning $886,000 by forgetting about the $27 of Bitcoin he bought years earlier. Kristoffer Koch of Norway says he bought the small sum of the new money in 2009, and forgot about it soon after. When he was reminded by recent media reports and checked his account, he cashed out just a quarter of his earnings to buy an apartment in a trendy part of Oslo.