Hal Finney, was one of the very first Bitcoin developers. He shared in an article before he died that he used Eye Tracking Assistive Technology to code. In 2009, Hal Finney who thought he was in the best shape of his life was diagnosed with ALS or Motor Neurone Disease. Symptoms were mild at first so Hal continued to work, but by 2011 he was forced to retire because of voice and fatigue problems. By the end Hal was essentially paralysed, fed through a tube and used another tube to assist with breathing. Hal used a speech synthesiser and operated a computer using a commercial eye tracker system. He worked off an interface using an Arduino (a single-board microcontroller for building digital devices and interactive objects) so that he could adjust his wheelchair position just by using his eyes. This enabled Hal to still enjoy the things he loved like reading, listening to music, watching TV and movies, and writing code. Even though writing code was probably 50 times slower than he was able to do when he was completely well he still enjoyed the process and it gave him goals. In his final days he was working on the security features of modern processes to support ‘Trusted Computing’ to harden Bitcoin wallets.
Hal Finney was also the first person to ever receive Bitcoin, 10 from Satoshi Nakamoto as part of the very first transaction. He was also one of the first Bitcoin developers that helped to mine Bitcoin and refine the code. He said that he always loved crypto, the mystery and the paradox of it.
Hal Finney’s story is an inspiring one and demonstrates the devasting effects ALS can have on a person’s body, someone who felt like they were strong and healthy, it shows how quickly ALS can take hold. Hal Finney’s story also demonstrates the necessity of having goals and the importance of finding ways even when physically incapacitated to achieve and contribute. Assistive Technology in the form of Eye Tracking technology was the enabler for this to happen. An inspiring story, and the impact Hal Finney has had on Bitcoin will not be forgotten and probably still has not been fully realised.