Bitcoin is a "digital currency" not tied to any government or bank. I wrote about Bitcoin way back in #28 ("Bitcoin Buyer") and #30 ("Bitcoin Remorse"). It's an interesting idea but I'd never bought any until today.
I bought 0.0232339 BTC (Bitcoins) for 10,000 South Korean Won, cash, via a Bitcoin ATM machine. One Bitcoin (1.00 BTC) was being sold for 430,000 Korean Won (USD $384) at the time of my transaction. This is up from $60 in April 2013.
My two-hundredeths-and-some of a Bitcoin were uploaded to my newly-created virtual Bitcoin account on the Internet, accessible via phone or computer.
The occasion for my purchase was a meeting by Bitcoin enthusiasts in Seoul. I was invited by my friend N.R. from California. It was a small group, a mix (by my impression) of "tech-oriented" Western expatriates conceptually fascinated by Bitcoin, and crafty Koreans looking for a business opportunity.
Unexpectedly to me, two young, garrulous Iranians were present, with whom I spoke a lot. One is trying to establish Bitcoin in Iran. He helped me set up my account.
The nearby cafe accepted Bitcoin payments so was a natural testing ground for my new Bitcoins.
We were puzzled about why my new account wasn't working for sending or receiving payments (yet). Eventually it wiggled its way into working. I transferred 0.0001 Bitcoins [USD 4 cents] to N.R. from California, who'd invited me. It was my first ever transaction.
Realizing my account was now active, I transferred the Iranian back the money for the coffee. Both of these transactions were instantaneous, using my phone to scan a kind of bar-code on the other person's phone, entering the amount to transfer to him, entering my password, and hitting "send". So simple. I could likewise transfer Bitcoins to anyone in the world nearly instantly if I simply knew the person's account number. This bypasses the entire need for the complication and aggravation with banks or other money-sending services (which always take their cut).
Bitcoin has certain serious problems, though, most seriously that its exchange rate has wildly fluctuated over the past two years, spiking and crashing. The first "spike and crash" was in April 2013, which is when I wrote posts #28 and #30, but this was nothing compared to the much bigger spike and crash coming later that year. Here is the exchange rate in USD to the present day:
One way or another, my Bitcoin wallet's balance stands at 0.013 BTC (something near USD $5.00).