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Cryptocurrency for beginners: What is it and how does it work?

  • 5 mths ago

For those who don’t regularly invest in cryptocurrency, the lingo and the larger environmental and political concerns surrounding the virtual currency can be hard to understand. Here’s a look at the basic concepts and vocab needed to become crypto savvy. 

The first and most popular cryptocurrency, bitcoin, launched more than a decade ago. Yet for all the relentless buzz, relatively few are well versed in cryptocurrencies or the blockchain, the technology on which they’re built.

Despite the evangelizing by and rising profile of some investors, a 2021 poll by Pew Research Center found that just 16% of Americans said they have ever invested in cryptocurrencies. That broadened to 31% between the ages of 18 and 29 and to 43% of men in that age range.

If you’re not among those percentages, you might view these currencies with skepticism and may have avoided trying to understand the lingo or the technology.

But as cryptocurrencies and related technologies reach into politics, intertwine with the larger economy, and impact the environment, everyone could use a sense of what they are, how they work, and their pitfalls and potential.

I want to sound smart. Is it “blockchain” or “the blockchain?” 

It depends on usage. “Blockchain technology” is acceptable to refer to the computer code that records cryptocurrency transactions (and can be used for other things; stay with us). Standing alone, just call it the blockchain – even though there are actually multiple (don’t worry, we’ll explain below).

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