Since its emergence at the end of 2017, many people have heard about IOTA as being an innovative payment technology. What most people do not know is how it evolved and what difficulties the developers have already dealt with in the past. This article seeks to shed light on the history of IOTA and JINN, and examine whether the developers have delivered on their stated goals.
IOTA as a by-product of JINN
They key figure in the history of JINN and IOTA is Sergey Ivancheglo. He is also known as BCNext, the inventor of Proof of Stake and NXT, and writes under the pseudonym Come-from-Beyond (CfB) on forums, chats and Twitter. |||
September 2012: Qubic is announced
In a Bitcointalk forum post, CfB announced Qubic (Quorum-Based Coin). The latter part of the original announcement seems to foreshadow IOTA:
– No fees
– No need to download gigs of data from “a blockchain”, every miner is allowed to handle only fraction of the Qubic network
– Transfer of money in Qubic is supposed to be much faster than in Bitcoin
– Qubic is more eco-friendly as it doesn’t require a lot of electricity to be spent
September 2014: Ternary processors come into play
CfB wrote, that in order to realize Qubic he needed a solution based on JINN (a ternary processor). Moreover, he would need emulations first before the processor could be designed. In another post, he revealed that development would probably take until September 2018.
January 2015: Prototyping the hardware
It was revealed that “basic ternary elements with transistors” would be needed for the processor to operate and that the prototypes would be manufactured in Belarus.
Later that month, David (Sonstebo) explained some setbacks:
Sadly we had to switch electrical engineers as the ones we had hired were constantly missing dates, postponing, language difficulties and conflict of interests. So a decision had to be made and that decision was to part ways with them and move onto new ones.[…] Thankfully this turned out to be a blessing in disguise as we now have a much more dedicated and passionate team which is hard at work to make Jinn all it should be. It also taught us a lesson in being a lot more strict with our communication protocols. […] Also I want to, yet again, touch on why we don’t give indepth updates often: Having out in the open discussions about all of these things is unheard of in the start-up industry, and that is for plenty of reasons: it affects hiring process, venture capitalist evaluations, legalities, competitive edge and so on. So in an effort to avoid shooting ourselves in our foot, we will take the appropriate measures to prevent this.
March 2015: More setbacks
David went on:
As most are probably aware, the Nxt price and crypto in general has crashed since we raised our funding, so we have less than 50% of what we raised in actual resources, so we have put on ice all side projects like Aftermath. […] We’re working on a few other Proof of Concepts, an update will come about this later. Right now it’s all about the actual processor 🙂
On this end everything is going good, we have a great team with a passion for ternary ( extremely hard to assemble in a world 2015 where ternary is a nichè curiosity ) and so far no big hiccups.
July 2015: Manufacturing is completed
The components were sent to “the world leading experimental integrated circuit foundry” for manufacturing. They really made a new piece of hardware!
David also talked about the problems en route:
Overall the project and start-up that is Jinn is very much healthy.
We have had a few unforeseen setbacks, mainly 2 outsourced teams we had to fire as well as the crypto-crash that swallowed 50% of our funds, but with everything taken into consideration we are very proud of what we have achieved thus far.
August 2015: More problems
The situation was tight:
Crypto keeps crashing, which means our resources keep diminishing. […] the only alternative would be to convert everything to fiat which would be regulatory hell + taxes and fees which would pretty much cancel out any benefit. […] We pay pretty much all Jinn members in bitcoin, which has been effortless and great, but the volatility has been harsh.
One of our devs (the one that has been in charge of compiler) has had a series of unfortunate events in his life that has made him unable to deliver results on milestones. This situation is being remedied as we reached an agreement where we will find another person to take over maintenance and development of the compiler.
October 2015: IOTA is born
Again on Bitcointalk forum, IOTA was revealed. IOTA “is needed for Jinn’s visions to become a reality”, because other coins were “not fit for mass-scale Internet-of-Things microtransactions, which is a requirement for the market for the JINN powered devices.” (Read our Trinary article for more information on why trinary code is important for IOTA/JINN)
With regard to the challenge of developing JINN David wrote:
In software projects you can put together a prototype/proof of concept/minimum-viable-product in days, weeks or months on a small or even non-existent budget. In the hardware microprocessor research and development realm this is not so. We are not just dealing with code (though we do that too for compiler, emulator and the necessary custom tools), but actual electrical engineering.This means that even if our processor was a run of the mill type without any exotic tech, it would still be a lengthy and very expensive process. To put all of this into perspective consider 21.co which developed a processor/ASIC in regular synchronous binary architecture on a ~120 million dollar budget. Even with this funding it still took them a long while, even while teamed up with one of the leading semiconductors in the world (Qualcomm).
A bit later, he stressed the developers’ attitude to keeping tokens for themselves:
Neither me, CfB or Mtchl takes out any salary in Jinn nor have we ever done so. All nxt tokens raised in the auction goes strictly to pay salaries for our electrical engineers, advisor, developers and physical component manufacturing. Nothing else.
IOTA crowdfunding will be 100% fair, no special treatment to anyone, including us, the founders. Again I repeat that this is a purely altruistic effort on our end, we do not owe this to anyone. We are still going full speed ahead with Jinn and uphold all promises we have made.
November 2015: Crowdsale
The IOTA crowdsale was announced for November 25, 2PM UTC.
Two days later, David pointed out what would become an even bigger problem in the future:
Every time you post an update = people will pump regardless, which leaves you in a situation where most don’t even know what they bought, they just bought the hype that we had nothing to do with. So we were forced to stop giving updates regularly as we became inundated with PMs and msgs from people who had bought JINN and not understood what it was and was constantly wondering why ‘development was so slow’, when in reality anyone that has actually paid any attention to what Jinn is would know that this is a hardware project for extremely unorthodox tech, meaning postponements etc is 100% inevitable.
With regard to the JINN development, he wrote:
We finally received the hardware components from manufacturing at the end of October and started testing as soon as we got them. Two engineers have been testing them and the results are both encouraging and frustrating. On one hand the ternary circuits work fine, but on the other the asynchronous is showing a problem. We’re now hard at work to solve this problem and will do another manufacturing run soon. But this is hardware. This means another 3-4 months until we know if the components work or not, there is a good reason on our end to be encouraged by some of the results and subsequent discoveries, but the intricacies are way too complex to explain here, not to mention premature.
February 2016: JINN is alive
Due to many questions regarding JINN, David replied:
Jinn is in development as always, more components have been designed and we are approaching the time to put it all together into the processor core.We’re all very excited about this, but will not announce anything ‘to the world’ before we know it works. This is our roadmap and PR strategy.
Additionally we are hiring new engineers to boost the development, but again I can not give out any details just yet.
May 2016: patience can be difficult
As we know from nowadays’ Discord, patience is seldom found in cryptospace. David told people back then:
For anyone still wondering why it’s “taking so long”: it’s really not. We’re trying to redo computing itself here, it’s not an easy task. Even big companies spend years developing their new iterations, Jinn is no iteration, it’s a brand new paradigm, so patience is important.
The Current Status
Since then, there have not been any revelations on Bitcointalk. The discussion moved on to Slack and since the beginning of 2018, to Discord. Only very scarce information has reached the community, but recently David mentioned it in the Discord announcement on Q:
Qubic, with origins stretching all the way back to CFB’s early musings of it on BTT in 2012 and numerous people’s intensive R&D in Jinn Labs since 2014, the elusive Q has officially began its unveiling and is hereby verified.
What we can see from this whole history is a) that the devs had to go through hard times and have kept up the good work, and b) that the project is still ongoing (CfB drops a little chunk of information every once-in-a-while on Discord).
Q/Qubic and JINN are intertwined as can be seen from the history of both projects, and which has been indirectly confirmed by the June 3 announcement about Qubic. This is such a vast new field to explore that we’ll be impatiently awaiting a glimpse into. Once more, the scarcest resource in cryptoland is needed: patience.