The internet has been in existence since the late 1960s, and IT firms were launching .com websites as far back as 1985.
Yet it was the invention of the World Wide Web in 1991 that led to the internet as we know it today. Even then, it took several years to percolate through to mainstream society.
It’s now being argued by some industry observers that blockchain technology could be as significant – and transformative – as Sir Tim Berners-Lee’s web concept.
And despite the troubled early years of blockchain-based concepts like digital currencies, there is growing excitement about the technology’s wider applications.
This is reflected in the world’s first blockchain smartphone, by Swiss firm Sirin Lab.
But what is a blockchain smartphone? And should it be a late addition to your Christmas list?
New kids on the blockchain
Blockchain technology has been around since bitcoin was launched in 2009, but it’s constantly evolving.
You can think of the blockchain as a publicly-visible ledger, containing every transaction undertaken since that particular blockchain was set up.
Although the details of who’s made each transaction are kept anonymous, the details of times/dates/payments can’t altered. Plus, everything happens pretty much instantly.
This makes the blockchain ideal for financial transactions – no more cheque clearance periods, no BACS delays, and no fluctuating exchange rates or currency conversion fees.
Indeed, there are no fees at all. And in theory at least, a stateless and fee-free digital currency shouldn’t provide any scope for fraud.
In reality, there are still significant safety concerns around blockchain security, not least the tendency for chains to split (or fork) in response to disagreements about their development.
Even so, many people believe that cryptocurrencies – the main use of the blockchain up til now – will eventually have a key role in our future lives.
This is the theory underpinning mobile cybersecurity firm Sirin Labs’ recent launch of the Finney blockchain smartphone, named after cryptocurrency pioneer Hal Finney.
It’s Android, Jim…
The sturdy (if slightly dated-looking) Finney is being marketed as the “gateway to blockchain technology”.
It runs on Sirin’s proprietary operating system – a modified version of Android 8.1 with many similarities to Google’s ubiquitous OS.
There’s a six-inch screen, a fingerprint sensor, a 12MP main camera and an 8MP selfie camera, while rapid charging replenishes half the battery in 30 minutes.
Specifications like 6GB of RAM and up to 2TB of additional SD card storage are decent, but unremarkable in the age of the Samsung Galaxy S10 and Apple iPhone 11.
However, it’s the blockchain elements of this handset which explain its £1,200 asking price.
An embedded cold-storage wallet is accessed through a separate pop-up two-inch screen at the rear of the handset.
This wallet is used to store cryptocurrency tokens, enabling users to safely conduct financial transactions wherever they happen to be.
Tokens and coins can be exchanged using an integrated conversion service, backed up by proprietary intrusion protection and multi-layered cybersecurity.
Emails and SMS messages are encrypted, and so are P2P calls, while a proprietary app lock adds extra protection to the phone’s contents in the event of theft or appropriation.
Sirin Labs claim the Finney has military-grade security, and it’s certainly more secure than conventional Android or iOS handsets.
For fans of cryptocurrencies and blockchain transactions, it’s an essential purchase.
However, while it provides an intriguing glimpse into a possible future, it’s probably not the phone for you unless you’re already in possession of Ethereum, Ripple or Bitcoin tokens.