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I was going to call this page 'a simple guide to blockchain' ... but - in my limited-technology opinion - there isn't one. I have read numerous articles, but I'm still struggling.

For the vast majority of us the following will suffice: Blockchain is a computer program. Of course, computer scientists will be beating a path to my virtual doorstep at this pronouncement, so in for a penny, in for a pound ...

Artificial intelligence is a computer program.

Virtual reality is a computer program.

There, I said it. Feel free to insert any other computer science term in front of the words; ' ... is a computer program'.

Like a lot of digital/computer science fads I've come across in the last 20-odd years, I've arrived at the opinion that blockchain had very limited application in the world of ordinary business and management - realistically only finance and the movement of money. For everyone else it is too expensive and its advantages can be acheived quicker and cheaper by other technologies. Or, importantly, newer technologies. It seems to me that IT systems that date back to when I was at school are simply not up to the new digital world ... but instead of replacing them with newer models, 'blockchain' is the answer. We had a very similar situation with CRM back around the turn of the century.

The best analysis I have come across - and even it is a bit sciency is Why Blockchain is Hard. If you can't be bothered to read it all - or can't make much sense of it - just skip to the conclusion.

In an attempt to present a 'to-the-point' description, I have taken the following from the Harvard Business Review's The Truth About Blockchain

How Blockchain Works

Here are five basic principles underlying the technology.

1. Distributed Database
Each party on a blockchain has access to the entire database and its complete history. No single party controls the data or the information. Every party can verify the records of its transaction partners directly, without an intermediary.

2. Peer-to-Peer Transmission
Communication occurs directly between peers instead of through a central node. Each node stores and forwards information to all other nodes.

3. Transparency with Pseudonymity
Every transaction and its associated value are visible to anyone with access to the system. Each node, or user, on a blockchain has a unique 30-plus-character alphanumeric address that identifies it. Users can choose to remain anonymous or provide proof of their identity to others. Transactions occur between blockchain addresses.

4. Irreversibility of Records
Once a transaction is entered in the database and the accounts are updated, the records cannot be altered, because they're linked to every transaction record that came before them (hence the term "chain"). Various computational algorithms and approaches are deployed to ensure that the recording on the database is permanent, chronologically ordered, and available to all others on the network.

5. Computational Logic
The digital nature of the ledger means that blockchain transactions can be tied to computational logic and in essence programmed. So users can set up algorithms and rules that automatically trigger transactions between nodes.

For more on the subject, How to tell when someone is talking BS about blockchain is worth a read.

Alan Charlesworth copyright notice
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