Blockchain for dummies

Posted on Monday, July 30, 2018 by Jessica Salerno

By Lori Brown, director of development, The Ohio CPA Foundation

When I started working at The Ohio CPA Foundation, I was new to the accounting world. I’m not a CPA and never took an accounting class in college, so hearing unfamiliar words was the norm at the onset of my new role. So when I heard blockchain for the first time, it just registered as another term I was unaccustomed to. But what I didn’t realize until hearing it for the third or fourth time, is that it was new to many people, accounting background or not.

So… what is it? What a loaded question. Don and Alex Tapscott, authors of Blockchain Revolution say “The blockchain is an incorruptible digital ledger of economic transactions that can be programmed to record not just financial transactions but virtually everything of value.”  …Huh? Like this one, many of the blockchain explanations I came across left me even more confused.

I kept reading and (finally) gathered enough information to (somewhat) confidently state, that blockchain:

  • Is a public electronic ledger
  • Records in real time - transactions are time stamped
  • Has transactions that are all linked together, creating the “block”
  • Blocks are linked to the specific person who created them
  • Can only be changed with agreement of all participants; however, changes are tracked and therefore can never be erased

While there are many, many articles discussing what blockchain is and how it will affect accounting, one article I found particularly helpful is this one from Reuters.  Maybe it’s the fun visuals or maybe my brain finally agreed to wrap itself around the terminology, but either way, nearly a year into my role with The Ohio Society of CPAs, hearing the word blockchain no longer warrants an uncertain nod of understanding. 

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