Fall 2016 Fundamentals Decal


The Cryptocurrency Decal is a comprehensive survey of relevant topics in cryptocurrency and the wider blockchain space. From a technological standpoint, we start with the basics of cryptography and economics, establish a solid fundamental understanding of Bitcoin by building it from the bottom up, and from there, explore the myriad of ideas and technologies relating to blockchain technology. On the non-technical side, we start with the history of digital currency, then look at the laws, organizations, trends, and communities behind it to build a complete picture of the ecosystem surrounding blockchain technology.


Many people find it difficult to understand cryptocurrency because cryptocurrencies require the coordination of many components for it to function, and it’s hard to see the full picture until all the individual components are fully understood. Furthermore, since the field is very technical and relatively new, cryptocurrency-related discussion by nature is full of jargon. Therefore, it is easy to get lost trying to follow nearly any conversation on cryptocurrency if you have not built up the right background.

Therefore, the goal of this course is to surmount the steep learning curve of cryptocurrency. By the end of this course you will understand how cryptocurrencies work and the ideas, technologies, and organizations sprouting from it.

Units: 1
Day and Time: Section 1: Wed 4-5pm, Section 2: Wed 7-8pm
Location: 310 Soda Hall
Course Staff: Max Fang, Philip Hayes, Sunny Aggarwal
Class Format: 1 hour a week. 30-45 minutes of the class will be lecture, and the rest will be dedicated to questions, discussion, and announcements.
Communication: All of the necessary communication for this course will be done through email. Weekly homework prompts will be distributed shortly after class, along with the lecture slides. We will also have an optional Facebook group to allow for further questions and discussion.
Prerequisites: This course have no formal prerequisites. However, cryptocurrency is very technical in nature, so coming into this course with knowledge of computer science or cryptography will be extremely helpful, although not required. To do well – we recommend having already taken or taking CS61A concurrently. If you have any concerns about the nature of this course, do not hesitate to reach out to the facilitators.
Grading: P/NP. You must get at least a 75% to pass the class. Grading will be based on Homework and Quizzes (40%), Attendance (50%), and Participation (10%). There will also be assigned readings each week. If you have any questions regarding our grading, feel free to bring it up in class.
Homework and Quizzes (40%): There will be EITHER homework or a quiz on each week’s topic, depending on which format is more appropriate, and never both. Homework and quizzes are weighted equally, and each one will be counted as either full credit or no credit.
Homework: The homework format is a half to one-page typed (double spaced, Times New Roman, 12 point font) writing assignment, with prompts emailed shortly after class. These assignments are designed to give you some hands-on exposure to the topics we just covered in class. They are straightforward and should not take much longer than an hour. Assignments on the previous week’s topic are due at the beginning of class, and may be turned in as a hard copy or emailed to facilitators. You are allowed to miss one homework assignment without having it affect your grade.
Quizzes: Quizzes are intended to be a quick, easy screen designed for you to demonstrate that you completed your readings for the current week’s topic. They will be in the form of 5 multiple choice questions and administered in the first 5 minutes of class. You must get 3 of the 5 questions correct to receive credit for the quiz.
Attendance (50%): We will take attendance at the beginning of every class. You are allowed to miss one class without having it affect your grade. If you are expecting an academic conflict such as a midterm, please let your facilitator know at least 24 hours in advance, and we will work out an alternative assignment with you.
Participation (10%): If you actively pay attention and occasionally ask questions/ contribute to discussion, you can expect a full score. Don’t stress out over this.
You may find full details in our syllabus here.
Textbooks: You are free to read from these books, which are both freely distributed and available online. Please do NOT go out and buy them. Some readings may be pulled from these books during the course.

Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency Technologies (Princeton textbook) by Arvind Narayanan, Joseph Bonneau, Edward Felten, Andrew Miller, and Steven Goldfeder:

(Optional/Additional) Mastering Bitcoin by Andreas Antonopoulos:
PDF: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B8lgcDXI8hEfbXFYcTh6aXNqRkk/view?usp=sharing
Source: https://github.com/bitcoinbook/bitcoinbook

8/29History: From the Cypherpunk Movement to JPMorgan Chase
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9/5Protocol and Consensus: A High Level Overview
9/12Bitcoin UX: How to Use Bitcoin
9/19Cryptography and Blockchain
Take-home Quiz
9/26Cryptocurrency Mining: Proof-of-Work Consensus
10/3Blockchain for Banks: Permissioned Ledgers and Alternative Consensus
Take-home Quiz (Google is your friend)
10/10Game Theory and Attacks
10/17Ethereum and Smart Contracts
Half page paper on smart contract/dapp use case
10/24Bitcoin Community and Regulation
Take-home Quiz
10/31The Fight for Privacy: Anonymization Techniques, Protocols, and Altcoins
Take-home Quiz
11/7Scaling Bitcoin: Cryptocurrencies for the Masses
11/14Advanced Topics in Cryptocurrencies
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11/21Conclusion: Venture Capital, Cool Ideas, and the Future