Local expert teaches about using digital currency

As bitcoin and other decentralized digital currencies have seen dramatic rises in value, one local tech expert has begun teaching classes to educate cryptocurrency newcomers and help them avoid scams.

Andrew Bard, president of Computer 21 in Cape Girardeau, taught his second cryptocurrency class Thursday at the Wehking Alumni Center in Cape Girardeau to a class of 10.

For $20, Bard walked his students through the intricate infrastructure behind bitcoin, Ethereum and other cryptocurrencies.

At the class's conclusion, each student conducted their first digital transaction -- receiving 0.02 Ethereum from Bard at a value of about $7.

Bard's experience with cryptocurrency dates to February 2015, when he began mining bitcoins at a value of about $200 per coin. A single bitcoin now is worth over $2,400.

Unlike traditional printed currency, bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are created by miners -- computers that solve computationally difficult puzzles.

"When I started out mining and I would produce these coins, I would sell these coins off to get my money back," Bard said. "Until recently, I had zero money invested. I sold just enough back to literally break even on the equipment."

After cashing enough coins to cover costs for his mining computer and electricity, Bard held onto the remainder of his mined coins -- a remainder which Bard estimates is worth over $30,000.

Bard began his class by guiding students through downloading the smartphone app imToken, a mobile Ethereum wallet. Two hours were spent detailing the functionality of blockchain technology and its decentralized, mathematic methods of self-regulation.

Bard also taught students how cryptocurrencies are taxed, how transactions behave and how to use online exchanges to convert cryptocurrency to legal tender.

Jacob Fish, a class attendee and friend of Bard's, previously doubted the value of cryptocurrency until recent upticks in price made him more interested in it.

"It didn't seem stable enough, and I didn't know enough about it, so that's really why I'm here now is just to learn," Fish said.

While many doubt the future of cryptocurrencies, Bard remains confident in the technology's fortunes.

Bitcoin's value has a history of dramatic fluctuations, but its value has more than doubled in the past three months, and some countries have begun accepting it as a nationally recognized currency.

For Bard, his confidence in cryptocurrency comes from the decentralized infrastructure regulating it and the currency's lack of government control.

"It gives us control. It's about me knowing that I own what I've created, and I can use it how I see fit. It doesn't mean I'm doing something illegal with it. It just means it's mine," Bard said.


Valerie Krutanova