The best way to learn about bitcoins is to jump in and pop some in your “pocket” to get an idea of how they work.
Despite the hype about how difficult and dangerous it can be, getting bitcoins is much easier and safer than you might think. In many ways, this is probably easier than opening an account at a traditional bank. And, given what’s been going on in the banking system, it’s probably safer too.
There are a few things to learn: getting and using a software wallet, learning how to send and receive money, learning how to buy bitcoins from a person or an exchange.
Before you start, you will need to get a wallet. You can do this quite easily by signing up for one of the exchanges that will host the wallet for you. And, while I think you will eventually want to have one or more exchange wallets, you should start with one on your own computer both to get a better idea of bitcoin and because exchanges are still experimental. When we get to that stage of the discussion, I will advise you to get in the habit of taking your money and coins off exchanges or diversifying between exchanges to keep your money safe.
What is a wallet?
It is a way to store your bitcoins. Specifically, it is software that has been designed to store bitcoins. It can be run on your desktop, laptop, mobile device (except so far Apple) and it can also be made to store bitcoins on things like USB sticks. If you are worried about getting hacked, then that is a good option. Even the Winklevoss twins *, who have invested millions in bitcoins, put their investment in hard drives which they then put in a safe deposit box.
- The Winklevoss twins are the ones who originally came up with the idea for a social media site that became Facebook. They hired Mark Zuckerberg, who took the idea from him as his own and became immensely wealthy.
What do you need to know about having a bitcoin wallet on your computer?
You can then download the original bitcoin wallet, or the client, in Windows or Mac format. These are not just wallets, they are in fact part of the bitcoin network. They will receive, store and send your bitcoins. You can create one or more addresses with one click (an address is a number that looks like this: 1LyFcQatbg4BvT9gGTz6VdqqHKpPn5QBuk). You will see a field where you can copy and paste a number like this of the person you want to send money to and then it will go straight to that person’s wallet. You can even create a QR code that will allow someone to take a photo with an app on your phone and send you bitcoins. It is perfectly safe to give them: the address and the QR code are for my donation page. Feel free to donate!
NOTE: This type of wallet acts as a wallet for you and as part of the bitcoin system. The reason Bitcoin works is that each transaction is transmitted and recorded as a number throughout the system (meaning that each transaction is confirmed and made irreversible by the network itself). Any computer with the proper software can be part of that system, verifying and supporting the network. This wallet serves as your personal wallet and also as a support for that system. So keep in mind that it will occupy 8 to 9 gigabytes of your computer’s memory. After installing the wallet, it will take up to a day for the wallet to sync with the network. This is normal, it doesn’t harm your computer, and it makes the system as a whole more secure, so it’s a good idea.
The original wallet.
This is a full-featured wallet – create multiple addresses to receive bitcoins, send bitcoins easily, track transactions, and back up your wallet.
Outside of the time it takes to sync, this is a very easy to use option.
Look for the Bitcoin Qt wallet download to find its site.
It runs on top of Bitcoi Qt, so it has the same timing requirements.
Armory allows you to backup, encrypt, and the ability to store your bitcoins offline.
Search the Bitcoin Armory Wallet to find its site.
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