ONE YEAR ago, Oxford programmer Peter Bushnell invented his own currency.
Today, it is worth $3.8m.
His creation, Feathercoin, is part of a growing trend in online-only currencies, known in the industry as cryptocurrencies.
Entirely controlled and generated by computer algorithms, users “mine” more currency by using powerful software to guess a complex code.
The most popular is Bitcoin, with companies charging up to £35,000 for powerful Bitcoin mining computers.
Mr Bushnell, from Arncott, near Bicester, said he wanted to created a cryptocurrency which the average user could mine on their laptop for free.
In order to do that, he made a currency so difficult to mine that it was not worth investing in specialist machines to mine it.
The father-of-two explained: “Feathercoin is 1,000 times harder to mine than Bitcoin.
“That keeps it decentralised. It means anyone at home, whether they’re on their computer or a laptop, can take part.”
Born and raised in Wheatley, for the past 11 years Mr Bushnell has been the head of IT at Oxford University’s Brasenose College.
He said he was drawn to cryptocurrency as a technology fan.
But just like pound coins or gold, users do not have to mine their own Feathercoins – they can be bought and sold at websites like bittylicious.com.
Mr Bushnell, who lives with his wife Ruth, said the beauty of cryptocurrencies is that they give users complete control over their own wealth.
The 35-year-old, who runs the currency from his Arncott home, never went to university.
He said: “It’s decentralised, it’s not backed by an institution or a central bank.
“I don’t have to use a money transfer company, there are no intermediaries, that’s why it’s brilliant – it gives people personal freedom over their wealth.”
More high street shops are starting to accept digital currencies over the counter.
The Oxford Blue, in Marston Street, East Oxford, accepts both Feathercoin and Bitcoin, and JimBob’s cafe in Magdalen Street takes Bitcoin.
Customers can buy drinks using their smart phone to scan a special code.
Mr Bushnell and regulars at the Oxford Blue celebrated Feathercoin’s first birthday at the pub on Saturday afternoon.
Find out more at feathercoin.com
A crash course
USERS “mine” cryptocurrencies using “hashing” algorithms to essentially guess complex codes, millions of digits long.
Each time the code is guessed, a “block” of coin is produced. Each block of Bitcoin currently contains 25 – Feathercoin 80 – but the amount changes.
Software to do the “hashing” – essentially guessing the code – can be downloaded.
These programmes can be run on a CPU, a computer’s central processing unit, or more
powerfully on a GPU – a graphics card.