A Conversation with One of Bitcoin Cash’s Most Prolific Developers
Calin Culianu is the #1 contributor to the Electron Cash project. Also, he contributes to BCHN, and has created the Fulcrum server. Definitely a Bitcoin Cash hero in my book. I picked his brain a bit about all things Bitcoin Cash, and got some juicy answers. Calin likes to talk, so let’s check it out.
Jonald Fyookball (JF): So Calin, how did you get into crypto?
Calin Culianu (CC): You got time? All right. I had a friend who was, I used to play games with him online. We were part of this crew online. This was like 10 years ago, or whatever, like in 2012. And he was telling me about Bitcoin and it piqued my curiosity. I didn’t know anything about it. And he was telling me how you could mine and you do transactions through your computer, and it sounded so weird. And I was like what is this stupid shit?
And I didn’t pay attention to it, and then I heard that podcast with Joe Rogan and Andreas Antonopoulos. When Bitcoin hit $1,000, that’s when I decided to get into it, which was not the best time to get into it.
And then, Satoshi. I think he was still, was he still around? I think he might have still been around when I first was reading about it. He was still in the forums. He hadn’t disappeared yet.
Can I just say one more thing, the thing that drew me, I realized how this is outside of the whole system, outside the banks, the government can’t fuck with me. I was like I can put some of my money here just in case things go belly up. This is outside of that. Why not? Why don’t I just put some of my wealth in this, and then it’s just like covering your bases. It felt really free. It felt liberating. I felt free. I don’t know. There’s something about freedom in it that really appealed to me.
JF: Where were you when the whole scaling debate started blowing up?
CC: I mean it felt like a betrayal because the whole thing was like this is going to become global money. And Satoshi, on the Bitcointalk forum, I mean he was talking about how he was going to scale it. People were asking him: can this really scale? And he was like yeah, we’re just going to… hard drives are going to be cheap someday. Some day you can download a DVD movie in five minutes. It’s not a big deal.
And the whole, everyone was on board with that. We’ll grow this thing until it can’t grow anymore. We’re going to become global money. It’s permissionless money. It was so weird. It’s like one day your wife comes home and she’s like I’m a man. Haha. I thought we were married. It’s like a betrayal. You don’t expect it. It’s like random. Like the whole thing about them not wanting to raise the blocksize, it felt ridiculous. I was like: what’s going on? I can’t even believe we’re arguing about this. It was obvious to me.
And then, there were the guys talking about Lightning. So, they were like Lightning, Lightning, this and that. None of these smart guys know what they’re doing. But, it still felt shady. It felt like these guys are scamming us.
JF: We’ve been through several forks, now, and it’s just like the same pattern, like some idiot wants to do something with the chain, and then people follow them. What’s up with that?
CC: I don’t know. Is it tribalism? Is it finding a niche? Like you find your little tribe, you’re like, all right, this is my group now. Maybe we’re drawn to the social aspect, like this is a bunch of people I can hang out with. I mean we do the same thing, Bitcoin cash, we all hang out on Telegram and stuff.
I think that’s an aspect of it like who you know. I feel like Blockstream, they poured money into this, man. They poured, and just spinning that narrative, it was professional, dude.
And there’s people that have different levels of information about a topic and it’s all over the spectrum. Even us, like we have higher levels of information, but, we’re also influenced socially by the people we know. And if you have less information or less idealism, or all you want to do is buy a Lambo, or, and it’s all like this spectrum of different sorts of motivations and levels of knowledge, and levels of idealism. It’s like a huge gray area, right, so depending on where you lie on that and who you know, you can end up following fucking ridiculous shit like Bitcoin Core.
JF: You were never really involved in developing… I know you’re involved in Bitcoin Cash development. But, were you ever involved in Bitcoin BTC development?
CC: Not at all. Like just writing little tools and stuff. Like I wrote like a little tool to like encrypt your key with bit 38 that nobody paid any attention to. It seemed like the software side was handled, and there were already projects, and no one really asked me to work on it, and I didn’t know much about Bitcoin internals at all.
JF: How did you get involved with software development in the first place? Did you go to school for that?
CC: Yeah, I went to school. I mean I got a computer science degree. I was always into computers. I was seven years old when I got my first computer. It was a Commodore 64.
JF: It seems like you’ve taken your programming skills to a pretty high level. How did you do that?
CC: Well, what else am I going to do? I grew up to a single mom, immigrant family in Queens in a working-class neighborhood. I’m like I got to do something. There was also a need. I grew up kind of poor, and I always wanted to be more financially secure, so I sort of sacrificed a lot to get really good,, out of necessity, it was like paranoia. What else are you going to do with your life? You might as well be good at one thing or two things. I was like a really smart kid, so I’m competitive about my intelligence, I guess.
And I got my first programming job, and like all the programmers were dicks, and they were rude to me because I didn’t know anything. And that really made me angry. I was going to show these guys, I’ll show them someday. I mean you can imagine that kind of scenario, you come out of school with.
JF: But then, pretty soon after you were working for someone else, you started doing your own like app development and stuff like that, right?
CC: Yeah. I couldn’t stand the whole corporate, I don’t know, it just felt pointless. And also, software people have a lot of capacity to generate new ideas and new solutions, especially when I started working, it was like in the early 2000s.
JF: Well, I think you have to be a little bit entrepreneurial-minded.
CC: Yeah. And you have to, like some people like having a comfortable life, just get a paycheck. People look at you funny, oh my god, you quit your job, what are you going to do. There’s like social pressure. First of all, I like risk a lot. I enjoy risk. I mean I don’t enjoy ridiculous risk, but I enjoy risk more than most people, I think. I don’t like to be super cozy and comfortable. I don’t like routine, so, yeah, I pretty much quit.
JF: So how’d you get involved in Bitcoin Cash?
CC: Yeah. It was random. So, you know FreeTrader, right? He had started this subReddit called BTCForks. I don’t know if he started it, but he was involved in it. And people were talking since the beginning of 2017 about forking. Let’s just freakin fork it. Let’s see what happens. Because there was Bitcoin. There was BU. And there was like XT, and they were also following the same chain, and they were trying to figure out ways to make that chain change. And then, some people were just like: screw it. Let’s just fork it. We’re never going to convince these people.
So, I think he teamed up with Amaury in like June or something. They started working. They started forking Bitcoin Core. And then, FreeTrader posted on Reddit. He’s like, hey, does anybody know Windows programming because we’re stuck here with something. And I responded. I was like oh, yeah, I know Windows programming. I’ve done a lot of Windows programming. I just started helping them with stuff.
JF: What’s been the experience like overall with the Electron Cash project?
CC: It’s been excellent. It’s been amazing. It’s been mostly fun, I would say. And the only annoying parts are my own personality getting in the way when I sort of get worked up, and I get consumed. But, as far as the people involved, they’re all just excellent, excellent people involved.
JF: What do you see as the future of the wallet in terms of features or development?
CC: Electron Cash is like the Swiss Army. It really is. It’s got a lot of features. It’s kind of fun to just keep building it out, right? I mean just keep adding stuff, adding details. I don’t know. I like details. I’m a detail-oriented person. I like the fact that EC has all these features, and that it’s kind of hard of use. But once you start getting used to it, it’s actually really awesome.
I remember some people were talking about it becoming more user friendly for newbies and stuff, but maybe there could be that, but I don’t know. There are other wallets that do that really well, like Bitcoin.com wallet. There should be at least one wallet that’s more technical.
JF: What are some things that excite you about Bitcoin cash overall?
CC: Man, I don’t know. That’s a hard question. I feel like I’ve been spending a lot of time in the forest, in the trees, I’ve been spending a lot of time in the trees. I can’t see the forest. Sometimes, like, recently, I was working with BCHN stuff, and I’m, what excites me? What I want to happen is I want people to wake up and realize BTC is just so strangled. It’s just so compromised. I don’t know. I feel like we can be the coin. I feel like that can happen. It keeps me sort of motivated a little bit even though it sounds like a pipe dream at this point. It sounds like, I don’t know. It feels like Dumb and Dumber, oh, so there’s a chance. But, I really feel like that’s true. I don’t know.
JF: All we need is more demand for onchain transactions, I think.
CC: Yeah. If there’s more demand for crypto transactions and people paying in crypto.
JF: So, let’s talk about BCHN, though, I mean that whole thing started out of kind of a response to ABC’s move, their shenanigans, and stuff.
CC: Yeah. It was like f**k, these guys are threatening to screw everything up. What are we going to do?
JF: So, was that kind of like déjà vu? Like Core messed with us, BSV messed with us, and now ABC is going to…
Yeah, totally. It’s like the same thing, again, but different. But, the same. It’s like what, I can’t believe this shit. I didn’t think Amaury would be that crazy.
JF: Sometimes I find I overestimate people.
CC: I think that everyone does that. We all do it. And the thing is, people can be really well-intentioned and really genuine, and then they may change for some reason later. People are like that.
JF: A lot of people are probably wondering like, well, what’s the governance like going to be now going forward? How do we know we’re not going to repeat the same mistakes, or what’s your take on the current leadership with Bitcoin cash and BCHN?
CC: That is a sensitive thing.. I’m not sure what the solution is to that. But, I see what you’re saying. And I see that right now, it’s just like a bunch of nice guys, sort of not being bad. You’re not being evil. It’s like me and FreeTrader. And that’s not necessarily stable, long-term, right?
That is an issue. But, the thing is what I hope to happen is that I hope no one implementation has too much power. I just hope, but then that’s not guaranteed, right? The thing is it’s a mind game here. Everything is a mind game when it comes to people and open source. It’s MIT licensed. The blockchain doesn’t collapse if developers die. The blockchain would continue. You would just keep parsing transactions.
So, it’s like an illusion that developers should have this much power. It’s a complete total illusion. Yes, it’s important to have good developers in case there’s an emergency. It’s important to have good developers in case you want new features because you don’t want them developing buggy software. But, they shouldn’t have enough power to be able to dictate economic policy. And I’m a developer, and I’m saying this.
JF: Seems like we dodged a bullet with the ABC fork, because ABC was so over-the-top, they defeated themselves. We got lucky. But we weren’t so lucky in the BTC fork.
CC: Well, with the BTC fork there were a couple of differences. One, they had financing. They had a whole lot of money. They were actually a company that actually employed people, that actually had money.
And so, they had their shit way together more than Amaury, who doesn’t have any structure. It’s just him being a little dictator without any structure. Blockstream was much more dangerous because of that.
But, yeah, I mean that can happen again. Let’s say BTC collapses and BHC becomes the number one coin in five years. You know all the evil people in the world that sabotage BTC. I’m convinced some finance people, or Blockstream type people. There’s people that are going to show up again and they’re going to try to corrupt BCH. And like what do we do? We don’t have any way to defend against that.
JF: We just need more education, more awareness, I guess.
CC: More awareness. Do we need governance? I don’t know. Some smart people are really into the idea of governance, something needs to be structured. I don’t know, either. I really don’t know. I’m not an expert on this topic, and I don’t know, and it seems like any governance can be corrupted. But, maybe it’s harder to corrupt a government. I have no idea, man. I do see that there’s a problem as far as that goes. We don’t want this to keep happening.
JF: So, what do you see as the future of crypto in society in the far future or in the medium future?
CC: I think it’s just inevitable. Like the fact that you can take money into your own hands. It’s out of the box. Pandora’s box has been opened. The genie is out of the bottle. It’s not going to be uninvented. People are going to find more reasons to use it in the future, especially as we get stuck home where we enter this new reality that they’re imposing upon us. Governments are printing more money. I feel like somehow it’ll just start to crop up more and more in people’s lives like they need to use crypto.
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