I was in the seventh grade and about 12 years old, which is 16 years ago, when I got my first urge to buy sets of firecrackers and laser pointers to generally enjoy and sell to my classmates who would also enjoy these asynchronously fun nuisance machines.
Wanting to buy these items, I needed to find a retailer. I of course turned to the internet and remember finding a retailer offering most of the products.
But once I knew where I’d buy these, I needed to figure out how I would buy them. And now I had a few concerns about the buying process:
I did not want my parents finding out I had bought these. If they found out, I could lose my products before ever getting them unboxed.. they surely did not want me having these (however innoucuous) michiveous toys.
I needed a digital form of payment. This was tough. I didn’t have a bank account — just about $70 in small bills saved in my bedroom lockbox. This meant I had no credit card or checks.
From here I started figuring — I don’t have a credit card and more importantly, I can’t use my parents’ credit or debit cards because they’d see the receipt and I’d be caught red handed.
My next line of thinking came to : I had seen gift cards begin taking the form of debit cards — now what if I could buy one of these in a local retailer with my $70 cash and then use it to buy the online products I had my eyes on.
Well looking back I realize this event catalyzed lines of thought for me:
Privacy is important. I knew I believed this then because I didn’t want my parents knowing what I was buying. Later this expanded to a broader understanding: There are plenty of reasons people should have privacy: even ones as simple as not giving others the opportunity to judge our interests, which could include laser pointers, firecrackers, books of choice, and anything else, weirder or less weird.
The financial system feels like a shrouded abyss for regular folk. I knew there was something that wasn’t being explained to me about money and the digital financial medium. The case in point here was the difficulty with which I needed to go through just to buy simple products on the internet. And even then, it was unclear what was backing up all these tools like gift cards. And I remember the feeling of asking myself to learn more, with curiosities demanding to be understood, such as “how come some cards are allowed to enable zero traceability (gift cards) while others aren’t (credit cards).”
Though I finally managed to get laser pointers that year, my twelve year old mind put the more serious issues on hold. It was not until I read about Bitcoin in 2013 that I began to understand why those thoughts had stuck with me.