Tech Untangled: What is Blockchain Technology

Delve into the intricacies of blockchain technology, a cornerstone of modern digital transactions.

Written by
Maeve Willie-Pepple
Published on
January 18, 2024
Read time
4 mins

In a world where ‘bank hours’ feel like a relic of the past, and ‘customer service’ seems like an oxymoron, it’s all too possible to run into the stuff of modern banking nightmares: frozen accounts, unexplained delays, and the classic ‘please hold, your call is important to us’ on loop. It is within this maddening vortex that leads us to the discovery of not only cryptocurrency but the technology that redefines trust and transactions: blockchain.

Blockchain isn’t just a buzzword thrown around in tech-savvy circles or a mere backend for the crypto-enthusiasts. It’s a paradigm-shifting technology that promises a future where transactions, records, and digital interactions are transparent, immutable, and decentralised. Think of it as the internet’s cooler, smarter sibling who's not just about connecting people but about redefining how we exchange value, information, and trust.

What is blockchain?

Think of blockchain as a digital scrapbook that everyone can add to, but no one can erase. Each page (block) in the scrapbook has a unique, secret code linking it to the previous page, a timestamp, and a bunch of stories (transactions) that everyone agrees are true.

When someone wants to add a story to the scrapbook, the community (nodes) plays a complex game of puzzle-solving (using algorithms) to make sure the story is real. Once they agree, the story gets its own page in the scrapbook. But here's the kicker: once a story is in, it's in for good. You can't just rip out a page without everyone in the group saying it's okay.

This scrapbook club doesn't have a boss (it is decentralised); it's a group project where everyone has a say. This makes it tough for anyone to cheat or sneak in false stories. Plus, it's like having a clear glass scrapbook. Anyone can look through it and see all the stories, making sure everything's above board.

Key features of blockchain technology:

  1. Distributed database or ledger: The blockchain ledger is a complete record of all the transactions that have ever occurred on the blockchain. It's distributed across all nodes in the network.
  2. Blocks: A block is the fundamental unit of a blockchain. Each block contains a collection of data, typically a list of transactions. Every block has three main parts: data, nonce and hash.
  3. Nodes: A node is an individual computer or user connected to the blockchain network. They use complex mathematical algorithms to confirm the authenticity of the transaction and add it to the blockchain. Nodes agree on the state of the ledger and the validity of transactions. This process can vary depending on the blockchain’s protocol (like Proof of Work in Bitcoin).

Key characteristics of blockchain technology:

  • Distributed: Like a viral tweet spread across the internet, the data isn’t stored in one place but across many computers.
  • Immutable: In blockchain, once something's recorded, it can't be edited or deleted - it's permanent.
  • Decentralised: No single person in charge; in blockchain, everyone using it has a say, sharing control equally. Control isn’t centralised.
  • Transparent: Blockchain lets you see every transaction, open and clear for anyone interested
“Blockchain is decentralised, while traditional finance is centralised. This means there is no single point of failure in a blockchain system”

Blockchain for bitcoin

Bitcoin operates on a foundation of blockchain technology. Satoshi Nakamoto, the pseudonymous figure behind Bitcoin, described it in their seminal research paper as "a new electronic cash system that's fully peer-to-peer, with no trusted third party." Essentially, Bitcoin leverages the blockchain to transparently and reliably record all transactions, acting as a digital ledger for payments and transfers between individuals.


Bitcoin, with the use of blockchain technology has fundamentally impacted financial freedom. With Bitcoin, every payment is recorded transparently and reliably on the blockchain, providing people with swift and secure ways to handle their finances. In war-torn countries with unreliable fiat currencies and traditional banking cut-off, bitcoin is a lifeline. Its decentralised nature, free from the control of any central authority, allows people to manage and transfer funds securely despite the chaos around. The blockchain acts as a trustworthy digital ledger, ensuring that his transactions are recorded and maintained, even in an economy on the brink of collapse.

Other uses of blockchain technology

While the most famous stories in this digital scrapbook are about digital money (like Bitcoin and Ethereum), it's not just about cash. It can be used for keeping track of goods (supply chain), voting, and even proving who you are online. Here are some use-cases:

Healthcare: Blockchain can securely store patient medical records, ensuring they are unalterable and private, accessible only to authorised individuals.

Property Records: Blockchain can streamline property record-keeping, making it more efficient and error-free compared to traditional methods. It ensures accurate, permanent records, particularly beneficial in areas without stable government or financial systems.

Smart Contracts: These are self-executing contracts with the terms written into blockchain code, automatically executing agreements like rental payments in exchange for access codes.

Supply Chains: Blockchain helps track the origin and authenticity of products and materials, supporting claims like "Organic" or "Fair Trade," and is increasingly used in the food industry for tracking from farm to consumer.

Voting: Implementing blockchain in voting can greatly reduce fraud, increase transparency, and expedite the vote-counting process, as evidenced in tests like West Virginia's 2018 midterm elections.

In a nutshell, blockchain is this super secure, clear-as-day, community-run digital scrapbook that's not just for stories about money but all sorts of things. It's a new way of keeping records that's honest, open, and pretty hard to mess with.

Pros and cons of blockchain


  1. Offers a banking alternative and secure personal information storage, especially in countries with unstable or underdeveloped governments.
  2. Cost savings by removing the need for third-party verification.
  3. Enhanced accuracy due to the elimination of human involvement in verification.
  4. Secure, private, and efficient transactions.
  5. Increased security through decentralization, making tampering difficult.
  6. High transparency of the technology.


  1. Inconsistent and uncertain regulatory environments across different jurisdictions.
  2. High technological costs for implementing some blockchain systems.
  3. Challenges with data storage capacity and scalability.
  4. Limited transaction speed with low transactions per second.
  5. Past use for illegal activities, notably on the dark web.

In summary, blockchain stands at the crossroads of technological innovation and complexity, offering transformative benefits alongside notable challenges, shaping a future that's as promising as it is intricate to navigate.

Maeve Willie-Pepple

I write about design, experiences and web 3.0. Stay in touch.