A Bitcoin Easter egg has been buried in macOS since 2018
No one seems to know for certain how the PDF of the white paper got there.
The copy of the original white paper explaining Bitcoin’s technological, philosophical, and economic underpinnings has been available online since its publication in 2008—but for some reason, a file version is potentially also buried in every Apple product running MacOS. First spotted by the blogger Andy Baio, a simple copy-paste of the following commands entered into Terminal will reveal the cryptocurrency explainer tucked away within macOS systems folders:
PopSci can also confirm the PDF’s existence on Ventura 13.2.1 after testing out the prompt. As Ars Technica noted on Thursday, the PDF is included within a system app called VirtualScanner.app, which is “almost certainly” related to the “import from iPhone” Continuity Camera feature first rolled out with Mojave.
[Related: A beginner’s guide to how cryptocurrencies work.]
Penned under the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto, the Bitcoin white paper’s author (or authors) have never been confirmed, but their impact on global economics has been felt ever since. Designed to be a decentralized alternative form of digital currency, Bitcoin relies on transactions recorded within a globally shared blockchain ledger, and is “mined” over time via users’ computers. As PopSci explained in 2016:
“Every 10 minutes, new Bitcoin enter the system. ‘Miners’ donate spare or dedicated processing power to help validate transactions around the globe. Bitcoin come as rewards for that work. In the early days, you could just do this with a PC. Now the process is complex and requires powerful hardware.”
While many Bitcoin and general cryptocurrency enthusiasts abound, critics often point to the monetary system’s extreme volatility. The value of single Bitcoin reached an all-time high of $68,789 on November 10, 2021. Barely a month later, its value sank to $46,164. As of writing, one Bitcoin is worth roughly $28,000.
According to his post on Wednesday, Baio accidentally came across the PDF Easter egg while attempting to fix their printer. After double checking with over a dozen Mac-using friends, Baio confirmed the file could be located in every version of macOS they had, stretching all the way back to 2018’s Mojave (10.14.0) update. Any Mac featuring High Sierra or earlier, however, appears to be sans “Satoshi.”
As to why Nakamoto’s white paper is buried within macOS, it’s anyone’s guess. “ Is there a secret Bitcoin maxi working at Apple?” asks Baio, before surmising, “Maybe it was just a convenient, lightweight multipage PDF for testing purposes, never meant to be seen by end users.”
In any case, Baio reveals a “little bird” informed him someone internally flagged the issue almost a year ago, which was subsequently assigned to the same engineer who embedded the whitepaper PDF. Clearly, nothing has happened to it since then, although that could very well change if enough people make a fuss about it.
PopSci has reached out to Apple for comment, and will update accordingly.