Ripple’s CTO invented a distributed computer system 20 years before blockchain – ask him about it

Ripple’s CTO invented a distributed computer system 20 years before blockchain – ask him about it


The mysterious Satoshi Nakamoto is often credited with inventing blockchain – the tech behind the recent cryptocurrency and decentralization boom. But long before Nakamoto published his seminal paper that shaped Bitcoin as we know it, Ripple chief technology officer David Schwartz had already come up a similar concept.

Almost 30 years ago on August 25, 1988, Schwartz filed a patent for a “multilevel distributed computer system” that would “preferably” run on “personal computers.” The technology was designed to leverage the combined processing power of numerous devices to accomplish singular tasks.

Three years later, Schwartz was eventually granted the patent. While the undertaking ultimately didn’t pan out, we spoke with the Ripple CTO about what his vision for the distributed system entailed – and how it overlaps with today’s blockchain tech.

The origin story

One of the main problems Schwartz, whose background is in cryptography, was trying to solve was how to distribute computing-intensive tasks (that would’ve been otherwise impossible to process by a single machine) to a network of devices.

“A distributed computer system is a network of computers each of which function independently of but in a cooperative manner with each other. Versatility of a computer system can be increased by using a plurality of small computers, such as personal computers, to perform simple tasks and a central computer for longer more complex tasks,” the patent documentation reads. “Such an arrangement lessens the load on the control computer and reduces both the volume and cost of data transmission.”

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