This week, a fascinating time capsule appeared on my computer. This Saturday Evening Post article by automotive pioneer Alexander Winton was originally published in 1930. It recounts Winton’s early efforts to convince the public, starting in the 1890s that the “horseless wagon” would be the future.

Winton, a Columbus-based bicycle maker, began developing automobiles in 1898. By then, he had completed one of the United States’ first commercial sales. The vehicle is in the collection of the Smithsonian Institution.

This is an extract from The Node, a daily summary of the most important crypto news from CoinDesk. Subscribe to the full newsletter by clicking here.

The parallels between Winton’s experience and the challenges faced by crypto developers are uncanny. Winton describes facing down endless mockery, fraudulent competitors, the hostility of banks – and a case of automotive “patent trolling” that calls to mind a a href=” still debating whether craig wright is Satoshi/”>particularly notorious crypto figure/ Winton’s story is eerily similar to the challenges crypto developers face: he describes being mocked endlessly, facing fraudulent competitors and hostile banks, as well as a case of “patent trolling”, which brings to mind a notorious crypto figure .

The similarities between the evolution of the automotive and cryptocurrency and blockchain technologies are not a mere cosmic coincidence. Many modern innovations have faced the same challenges, largely because of how capitalist investment and speculative behavior has shaped human behavior.

“Dishonesty caused great harm at a time when the most support was needed.”

Winton’s account shows that he had difficulty distinguishing his real (and ultimately very successful ) auto company from competitors who had flawed ideas and outright frauds.

It’s fascinating to see the well-intentioned, bad ideas that were put forward for cars. Early automakers built a mechanical horse that rode on one wheel and was attached to buggy shafts like a real animal. The motorized horse was not controlled by a wheel but rather with reins that were attached to its “mouth”. Early experimental cars also ran on compressed gas (yikes), compressed air, steam and, yes, even electricity.

They were sincere attempts that failed due to technical flaws or mismatches in the market. These early digital money attempts, including Liberty Reserve and Coloured Coins for Bitcoin, are similar. They were useful iterations but didn’t last.

Winton refers also to a 19th century technology journal called “The Horseless Age.” These looneys dared to publish a publication that focused on a technology that was barely existing, and…well, you can draw the parallels yourself.

In both autos and crypto, this often took the form of investment fraud by fly-by-night operators who a href=””>capitalized on a speculative frenzy/a> to a As in crypto, the investment fraud was often perpetrated by flyby-night operators, who took advantage of a speculative frenzy, to fleece naive, unlucky.


Winton wrote that in those early days, “we had to fight the wildcat auto companies outside.” It was hard for the public in those early days to tell the difference between genuine and ephemeral products. Some towns can still point out windowless factories built [in 1890s] using stock sold by glib marketers, but that never produced more than two to three cars.

Winton says that in the early days of the automobile industry, more than 500 companies “came and went” out. This incredible churn also sounds more than familiar.

To advocate the replacement of the horse that one has marked as an idiot.

These frauds not only diverted investment capital away from better projects but also fueled skepticism about the idea of automobiles. Like crypto critics who often tout PayPal or Venmo, as acceptable digital payment tools (pro-tip: it’s and not), auto skeptics are perfectly happy with the existing transportation technology.

Winton cites a journalist named E.P. Ingersol argued, “The idea that automobiles will compete with trains in long-distance traveling is visionary to the extent of lunacy.” This comment was made as a response to a truly insane 1899 proposal for a bus route between Chicago and St. Louis.

Winton was already a successful bike manufacturer when he began tinkering around with cars. His banker also criticized him. The financier said, “You are crazy if think that this idiot contraption which you have been wasting time on will ever replace the horse.”

Winton, in an attempt to make his point, cited Thomas Edison’s belief that automobiles will “add to the overall wealth” through increased efficiency of commerce. The banker dismissed Edison’s remarks as “just another innovator talking,” displaying a mindset that is all too common.

“If we came up with a great idea, we lent it.”

Those who closely follow the crypto-industry will also notice a final parallel. Winton describes the familiar collaboration of early automakers, including his generous assistance to Henry Ford when he was designing a steering-wheel.

Winton recalls that “lawyers tried to convince me to bring suits for infringements,” but it just so happened that we pioneers worked together. We loaned out ideas. We also loaned ideas. Patents were also lent.

Open-Source Licensing has formalized this ethos in the software industry. Winton and other contemporaries discovered that not everyone shares and shares alike. “patent-trolls” are those who do not turn their ideas into products that sell.


Winton tells the story of George Baldwin Selden who, in 1879, was granted a “patent covering the essential principles of automobile” Selden, who had failed to create a product for almost two decades, teamed up with an investor to launch a lawsuit campaign in 1899 against real manufacturers, including Winton. In the end, several manufacturers were forced to pay licensing fees for parties who had contributed nothing to their creations.

Craig Wright’s claims that he invented Bitcoin have been widely disputed. He now appears to be preparing to launch a similar patent enforcement campaign against other successful blockchain projects. Wright’s dismal court record may make this a minor issue.

In Winton’s case, licensing payments only lasted a few short years as real innovators began to move away from the ideas that Selden and his partners controlled. The real blockchain innovators are going to leave the skeptics, fraudsters, and trolls behind them.