Skip to main content

Bitcoin and Cryptocurrencies

Learn the fundamentals of Bitcoin and the Cryptocurrency space, including the basics of smart contracts, the Ethereum platform and how to build decentralized applications.
Bitcoin and Cryptocurrencies

There is one session available:

152,575 already enrolled! After a course session ends, it will be archived.
Starts Oct 27
Estimated 6 weeks
3–5 hours per week
Self-paced
Progress at your own speed
Free
Optional upgrade available

About this course

Skip About this course
Developed by Blockchain at Berkeley and faculty from UC Berkeley's premier Computer Science department, this course presents Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies as the motivation for blockchain technologies, and provides a comprehensive and in-depth overview of the fundamental concepts of the crypto space with a particular emphasis on Bitcoin.

The course covers basic properties of bitcoin, the mechanics behind it (e.g. including cryptographic hash functions, Bitcoin Script, privacy, and hash commitment schemes) and its roots in the Cypherpunk movement and Libertarian ideals. You'll learn about practical applications of Bitcoin such as wallets and mining, as well as how to destroy bitcoins, including network attacks and malicious mining strategies. We will also take a brief look at Ethereum and how blockchain can be used outside of cryptocurrencies.

This course is open to anyone with any background. Whether you are planning your next career move as a blockchain developer, crypto trader, data analyst, researcher, or consultant, or are just looking for an introduction to the Bitcoin technology. This course will help you to begin developing the critical skills needed to future-proof your career.

This course is part of the Blockchain Fundamentals Professional Certificate program.  If you are planning to enroll in the entire series, we suggest starting with this course and then progressing on to CS198.2x Blockchain Technology.

At a glance

  • Institution: BerkeleyX
  • Subject: Computer Science
  • Level: Introductory
  • Prerequisites:
    This course has no formal prerequisites. However, cryptocurrency and blockchain are technical in nature, so coming into the course with knowledge of computer science or cryptography will be helpful.

What you'll learn

Skip What you'll learn
  • The basic properties and intent of centralized/decentralized currency and an in-depth understanding of Bitcoin from the ground up, including - Identity, Transactions, Record Keeping, and Consensus.
  • The roots of Bitcoin in the Cypherpunk movement and Libertarian ideals, and the revolutionary significance of Bitcoin as opposed to some of its early predecessors.
  • The mechanics behind Bitcoin, such as the Bitcoin network, cryptography and cryptographic hash functions, Bitcoin Script, privacy, and hash commitment schemes.
  • Real-world aspects of Bitcoin, such as wallets, wallet mechanics, mining, transactions, and Bitcoin governance and the various ways one can interface with the Bitcoin network.
  • How to destroy Bitcoin, including various network attacks. 
  • The properties behind the second largest blockchain platform, Ethereum, including the Ethereum Virtual Machine and the idea of Turing completeness, the key protocol differences between Bitcoin and Ethereum, the use cases of Ethereum.
Bitcoin Protocol & Consensus: A High Level Overview

We begin with some fundamental concepts such as the basic properties and intent of centralized/decentralized currency. We then build an in-depth understanding of Bitcoin from the ground up, divided into four stages: Identity, Transactions, Record Keeping, and Consensus.

Blockchain History: From the Cypherpunk Movement to JP Morgan Chase

This module delves into the origins and historical significance of Bitcoin. We look into the roots of Bitcoin in the Cypherpunk movement and Libertarian ideals, and examine the revolutionary significance of Bitcoin as opposed to some of its early predecessors. We then move onto exploring the history of the crypto space as a whole.

Bitcoin Mechanics & Optimizations: A Technical Overview

We examine the in-depth mechanics behind Bitcoin, such as the Bitcoin network, cryptography and cryptographic hash functions, Bitcoin Script, privacy, and hash commitment schemes.

Bitcoin In Real Life: Wallets, Mining, and More

We examine the most frequently used real world aspects of Bitcoin, such as wallets, wallet mechanics, mining, transactions, and Bitcoin governance. We explain the various ways one can interface with the Bitcoin network, depending on the specific software they run.

Game Theory & Network Attacks: How to Destroy Bitcoin

We look into how to destroy Bitcoin, including various network attacks. Specifically, we look into vulnerabilities such as pool cannibalization, double spending and forking attacks, network attacks, the Goldfinger attack, malicious mining profit strategies, and 51% attacks.

Ethereum & Smart Contracts: Enabling a Decentralized Future

This module focuses on the properties behind the second largest blockchain platform, Ethereum. We introduce the Ethereum Virtual Machine and the idea of Turing completeness, and examine some of the key protocol differences between Bitcoin and Ethereum, such as the UTXO vs. accounts model and functionality. We then look into some of the use cases of Ethereum, and conclude with an overview of smart contracts and building decentralized applications. Having spent the last modules primarily on cryptocurrencies, this module encourages students to think about blockchain use cases outside of cryptocurrency.

Learner testimonials

Skip Learner testimonials
“Blockchain fundamentals got me up to date with the basics of this phenomenal new technology and taught me what all the buzzwords really mean. It got my feet wet and made me feel confident enough to start really digging deep into this space.” - Medha Kothari, Fall 2017

About the instructors

Frequently Asked Questions

Skip Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Who is Blockchain at Berkeley?
A: We're a student-run organization at UC Berkeley dedicated to serving the crypto and blockchain communities. Our members include Berkeley students, alumni, community members, and blockchain enthusiasts from all educational and industrial backgrounds.

Q: Where can I get certified?
A: You can take this for the verified certificate program.

Q: How can this course prepare me for a career in blockchain?
A: Gaining a strong understanding of the fundamentals of blockchain is immensely important. By grasping the underlying architecture and motivations of blockchain, one gains insight into what makes blockchain so powerful. This course provides the sturdy foundations for future learning and careers in blockchain.

Interested in this course for your business or team?

Train your employees in the most in-demand topics, with edX for Business.