In 2013, Forbes tech reporter Kashmir Hill decided to use nothing but Bitcoin for an entire week to see how the up-and-coming cryptocurrency would fare in the “real world”. Daily expenses, little buys here and there where possible, and most prominently, a blowout sushi dinner – all paid for in Bitcoin. Back then, BTC was priced at US$136 (~AU$178); at the time of this writing, BTC has surpassed the US$20,000 threshold (~AU$30,224).
“Bitcoin had come on my radar as a privacy-protective technology allowing people to make anonymous online purchases,” Hill writes in The New York Times.
“I bought a bunch of Bitcoin… on a site called Coinbase and tried to find ways to spend them. There weren’t many places that knew what Bitcoin was, much less accepted it for purchases.”
“But because I lived in the tech mecca of San Francisco at the time, I did have a couple options, including a cupcake shop and a sushi restaurant called Sake Zone.”
“Still, the week living on Bitcoin was hard: I had to move out of my apartment into a hacker hotel that was still under construction. I lost five pounds, both because of the limited food options and because my only transportation options were walking or riding a bike that a friend rented to me for half a Bitcoin. And I was constantly caffeine deprived because I couldn’t find anywhere selling coffee for cryptocurrency.”
After living a spartan lifestyle for several days, Hill decided to celebrate. And amusingly enough, there was an open invitation to Bitcoin enthusiasts on Reddit. Only the turnout ended up becoming a little more than just a dozen or so people from a then-niche internet community. The headcount climbed all the way to over 60. Economists, entrepreneurs creating Bitcoin apps and games, the founders of Burning Man – it became quite the diverse peanut gallery.
“At the end of the night, I paid the bill, which came to US$957 (plus tip). I felt guilty at the time, making [restaurant owner] Yung Chen accept $US1,000 worth of funny money because it was unclear to me whether Bitcoin should be worth anything at all.”
There is, however, a happier epilogue to what many would deem a tale of missed opportunities. In 2017, Chen and his wife retired from the hospitality racket due in great part to their crypto earnings – although Chen still clocks in the odd shift as a sidewalk inspector for the City of Oakland. In 2020, the couple hold a total of 41 BTC (~AU$1.23 million).
“I didn’t worry about that,” say Chen in reference to accepting Bitcoin over cash for the headline-making sushi dinner all those years ago.
“Compared to our regular sales, it was a small amount. At that time, Bitcoin wasn’t a big money… Now it’s big money.”
Ya love to see it.
You can read the original article via The New York Times here.