Blockchain's First Legendary Story: Zhang Nansun's Virtual War and Choice

Source: Tencent News "Perspective"

Author: Liu Peng

Like many emerging industry development trajectories, blockchain has never lacked the myth of wealth creation, and it is full of the joy and sorrow of Zhu Lou's collapse; and in every successful entrepreneurial story, ordinary and destruction, seduction and madness have always been The main conflict.

Seven years ago, Zhang Nanzhang left the school and chose to fight against the American Butterfly Lab to start Jia Nan Technology. He developed the world's first ASIC-based bitcoin mining machine, which built a high wall for the bitcoin network, led the Chinese army to occupy the upstream of the industry chain, and also allowed himself to use the "blockchain" seven years later. The identity of the "first share" stands on the Nasdaq clock tower.

But he attributed his success to chance and the trend together. At the listing scene, he lamented that New York was the place where countless magic was born, and hoped that the listing of Jia Nan could also become one of the magic events witnessed and happened in New York.

Bitcoin is the most amazing event he has ever witnessed. As a result, the bell ringing on the market, which is generally regarded as an important moment towards the climax of life, "is not so exciting." However, a shareholder who invested in Canaan Technology in the early days was weeping with joy. The host of the Nasdaq listing ceremony had to use a microphone to remind him, "Wipe the tears quickly, we are going to take pictures."

At the end of 2019, 36-year-old Zhang Nanhua with black and white hair recalled Tencent News "Perspective" the entire six-year entrepreneurial journey. "In fact, the company basically faces a moment of life and death every six months, because any time a film fails, the company may die the next day."

Unwilling to be arranged

Zhang Nanzhang's first major choice in his life was to graduate with an undergraduate degree.

When he graduated from Beihang University in 2005, Zhang Nanxun, who wanted to join the IT industry, sent out numerous resumes when he had a bad employment environment. As a result, "I didn't find a job as a caretaker." Eventually, he went to the school opposite An aerospace group research institute, but was told that in accordance with the rules, first need to go to the factory below the group for three months as a technician.

This choice seems less proactive.

"The notice said it was three months, and the result was almost three years." Zhang Nanxuan recalled that although he got along well with the workshop workers and worked more easily, the future life seemed like a straight line, bland, and full of certainty. Even what kind of daughter-in-law will marry in the future, how to live this life, can predict.

"Every year there will be an example right next to you. You are 25, 28, 31, three years as a stage, there is a person around you that is your state, until you retire, and may eventually be rehired, all The details are all there. Then you can see some contradictions between them, for the sake of promotion … This is really terrible. "

The horror of a blunt life is like a black hole that devours him.

After working for three years, Zhang Nanzhang chose to go back to Beihang University for a postgraduate study, which is different from the career of workers. It was this year that the Bitcoin white paper "Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System" released under the name "Satoshi Nakamoto" came out. In the following ten years, a wave of underlying technology represented by the blockchain emerged. , And stir up the stupid worldly wealth.

The spear that changed the world

In 2011, Zhang Nanzhang, who has begun a doctoral degree, first encountered Bitcoin and was deeply attracted by the concepts described in the white paper. In addition to scientific research, his biggest interest is to go to foreign forum bitcointalk to exchange bitcoin technology and value.

Two years after its birth, Bitcoin was very niche. Most of the earliest members of the interest circle were geeks and programmers with a technical background. They regarded the decentralization built by Satoshi Nakamoto as a guide and used Bitcoin. Niche scenes such as rewards in forums.

Bitcoin gave Zhang Nanxun a spear that could change the world. "In fact, digital currency itself gives people more choices. It gives everyone a new choice."

In Florida, a programmer named Laszlo Hanyecz came up with a whimsy and offered to exchange 10,000 bitcoins for two pizzas on the forum. A few days later he completed the transaction and exposed the pizza. This is also the first time that Bitcoin is linked to real purchasing power, although today 10,000 Bitcoins are worth hundreds of millions of RMB.

The gradual increase in transaction application scenarios has allowed Bitcoin to start forming a fair price for fiat currencies. How to get more bitcoin has become one of the focus of everyone's discussion, and "mining" has begun to become the earliest industry in this system.

"Mining" is based on the model built by "Satoshi Nakamoto" and uses the computing power of the chip to continuously perform "hash collisions" in the blocks generated by the Bitcoin system to win the right to account, thereby obtaining System rewards. Because this process is dull and repeated, it is vividly called "mining".

In the first few years of Bitcoin's operation, the CPU in ordinary laptop computers could play the role of "mining", but the efficiency seemed to be low with more and more people entering the market. Nannan Zhang, who has a background in computer architecture, tried to make some FPGA-based miners in programmable mode. He loved Japanese anime and named it "Icarus" actress Icarus. He sold it abroad through forums. Interested geeks made a small pocket money and became a well-known figure on the forum.

Because the registered net name in the forum is "ngzhang", ng is the first letter of Nanzhang, but the first related word typed in Chinese is "pumpkin", and Zhang Nanzhang in the Chinese network started to be called "pumpkin Zhang", and Has been used to this day. Zhang Nanzhang told Tencent News "Perspective" that he didn't like the name of "Pumpkin Zhang", but there were too many people to call and could not correct them one by one.

Challenge the "dragon"

In the birth of the bitcoin world, there are always people who are not reconciled to world peace.

Three years after the birth of Bitcoin, an organization called "Butterfly Lab" posted on the forum that it was working on an integrated circuit-based (ASIC) professional mining machine. ASIC is an integrated circuit designed for special purposes. Compared with the popular CPU, GPU, and even FPGA-based miners at the time, ASIC integrated circuit-based miners are equivalent to nuclear bomb-level weapons. If Butterfly Lab is successfully developed, after holding the "nuclear bomb", it is likely to control over 51% of the computing power in the bitcoin world, which also means that the institution can tamper with bitcoin's blocks and almost have full control.

"Bitcoin's world is going to be destroyed!" Technology geeks fry pans, awakening Zhang Nanzhang, who is still studying for a doctorate in integrated circuit design at Beihang University. He decided to challenge the "dragon dragon" alone, and announced on the forum that before the success of Butterfly Lab, he was the first to develop an ASIC mining machine and deliver it to the hands of Bitcoin enthusiasts scattered around the world to ensure that the computing power is not dispersed and not alone. Power monopoly.

Zhang Nanzhang named this plan the "Avalon Project". In the anime world, "Avalon" is a bliss world in another generation. It is guarded by nine queens and can resist foreign aggression.

Nannan Zhang recalled that after the crowdfunding of the Avalon project was launched, the enthusiasm of the community exceeded his imagination. The first pre-sale of 300 units at a price of $ 1299 was quickly robbed. In order to focus more on research and development, Zhang Nanzhang found Guo Yifu, a Chinese who is studying in the United States, and asked him to be responsible for the construction and maintenance of the sales webpage, and at the same time responsible for the mining machine payment and customer service.

With funding in place, Zhang Nanzhang, who was preparing to do a big job, proposed to the mentor that she be suspended for one year, but was rejected. "My father is a doctoral supervisor of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and my grandfather is an associate professor or above, so there is no shortage of a doctor in my family." After receiving the support of his family, Zhang Nanzheng offered to drop out and give up his doctorate.

After dropping out of school, Nannan Zhang had no intersection with his mentor. What made him strange is that, after a few years of success, some people in the circle pretended to be his mentor to cheat. The department building where I was reading the post was also demolished and turned into the Zhizheng Building. Everything is like yesterday, as if passing by with another life.

Hash power nuclear weapon

In January 2013, Bitcoin core developer Jeff Gazik received the first Avalon mining machine developed by Zhang Nanzhang and was excited to broadcast the entire unboxing process on the network. This is also the world's first ASIC miner on record.

Nannan Zhang recalled that Avalon, from the successful development of the chip to the assembly of the machine, bought up all the power plug-ins on JD. In order to make up for the other parts of the first 300 machines, he drove a fit to run all electronics in Beijing. Wholesale market. "Fortunately, the volume is not large, because my experience at that time was an experience of mass production of electronic products in a lesser volume, and my ability range was basically at this level."

In 2013, Bitcoin completed its first show in front of the world, and the price rose by more than 100 times during the year, up to a price of 8,000 yuan. Early adopters were surprised to find that professional-grade miners can continue to bring huge wealth like chickens that can lay golden eggs. . Avalon mining machines were smashed to six figures in the market, and the demand was still in short supply.

After Zhang Nanzhang, the genius young roast cat became the second person in the world to build an ASIC miner. In July 2012, Jiang Xinyu, a young student of the University of Science and Technology of China, launched a crowdfunding with his nickname friedcat (meaning "roasted cat"). The crowdfunding share was directly transferred to the roast cat miner shares and anchored with Bitcoin. Although shares are issued instead of tokens, this process is still considered by many to be the first attempt of an Initial Coin Offering (ICO) in China.

At the beginning of 2013, after the Avalon mining machine was shipped, the roast cat mining machine also succeeded in research and development and began shipping, but the butterfly laboratory that originally launched the nuclear war on the power was far away.

"In the beginning, to be honest, it was really an ideal explosion. Some people later told me that if 100 more mining machines were produced or if they did not sell it in their hands, there would be no need to start a company to seek a series of listings. Something happened. "Zhang Nanxuan sighed, but firmly believed that it was an extremely correct move to sell the mining machine to other parts of the world and realized the decentralization of computing power.

But the profiteers who got the mining machine and tasted the sweetness would never want to go back. Everyone originally designed by Satoshi Nakamoto could use a notebook to participate in mining to obtain the balance of Bitcoin rewards, which was completely broken. The ASIC professional mining machine designed by China and manufactured in China has staged one after another hash power competition in the bitcoin world, raising the threshold for mining ten million times. Ordinary computers became history, and "nuclear weapons" ASIC mining machines stood on the stage.

As more and more mining machine manufacturers join in, in the crazy computing power arms race, the difficulty of bitcoin obtained by each mining machine will rise. Who can develop a mining machine with stronger computing power? You will receive a large number of orders. Under Moore's Law, chip upgrade R & D capabilities directly determine the success or failure of the competition.

According to Zhang Nanzhang, although the advent of professional-grade ASIC mining machines has greatly raised the threshold for mining and kept out ordinary people, the existence of "nuclear weapons" is precisely to protect the fragile Bitcoin network, just as real nuclear weapons are in In the real world, pro-nuclear states are deterred from each other to prevent weapons from being concentrated in a single monopoly.

"Before the emergence of ASIC miners, Bitcoin was a particularly fragile system, and botnets may be able to handle it. Bitcoin has a weakness on the bright side, controlling more than 51% of the computing power will cause hackers to tamper with the network, Before the advent of the mining machine, control was relatively easy to achieve. "Zhang Nanzhang did a calculation at the beginning. If a domestic BAT adds a mining module behind a product, the computing power it will control will instantly exceed the original network of Bitcoin. The computing power is equivalent to taking full control of the Bitcoin network.

So after the advent of "nuclear weapon" ASIC miners, such monopoly dangers began to disappear. "Equivalent to when the computing power of the Bitcoin network was still very weak, the decentralized ASIC mining machine was used to protect it from being monopolized by a single force." Zhang Nanzhang believes that even if he did not stand out at the beginning, there would be a mine of roasted cats. The advent of the machine will also solve such problems. "It was only me and the roast cat who had the ability to use their computing power to do evil to monopolize. Fortunately, we all resisted the temptation and sold the miner without staying in our own hands. It may not be the case that we change to someone else. This ending. "

Looking back at history, Zhang Nanxun believed that "this is a problem that Satoshi Nakamoto failed to think of at the beginning of the design, and it is also the number of bitcoin."

Venture Risk

The first 300 miners fulfilled his idealistic mission and also proved the sustainability of the mining industry. In mid-2013, Zhang Nanzhang established Jianan Company and started his formal business.

Zhang Nanzhang described the scene at the beginning of the business: a table is next to a bed, and when you are tired from work, you lie directly in bed and get up to work. With more and more white hair, they often fall into a trance, and it is easy to drive fast, so that accidents often occur when driving outside to buy goods. "The most frequent one occurs three times a month, and the most serious one is the five-car rear-end. I take full responsibility." So I changed the Civic that has been driving since school to the Fit to pull goods.

Just when Zhang Nanzheng was driving around Fit to pull goods, he launched an online search for "pumpkin Zhang", and soon his license plate number appeared on the forum. So Zhang Nanxuan used the money earned in the early days of the business to replace the Fit with a Camry. "Because the Camry has no passion to drive, there have been no accidents since."

However, compared to traffic accidents, what made Nannan Zhang more memorable was a series of deceived experiences in the early days of entrepreneurship. In the early bitcoin world, the two pillar industries of mining and trading have just emerged, but the most developed industry is fraud. With the rising price of coins in 2013, the price of 8,000 yuan has made people crazy.

Everyone is pouring in like a tide, which is completely different from the environment when Bitcoin was not yet linked to real-world wealth. Zhang Nanzhang recalled that the people who entered the market in 2013 began to be mixed with each other, which also brought about an early harsh business environment.

Humanity and goodwill have begun to become fragile, and the just-stable Bitcoin parallel universe has become at risk.

Liars have a variety of methods. Anyone who promises to manufacture a cost-effective mining machine only accepts Bitcoin to accept the reservation, but after the receipt of the coin, it is delayed and the investor cannot announce the R & D failure when he can't wait. The compensation plan is based on the Bitcoin price: If the currency price rises, then the fiat currency equivalent to the currency price at the time of the reservation is returned. If the currency price falls, the same amount of bitcoin will be returned. There are also delays in delivery after the mining machine is produced, plug in the electricity and mine for a while, and wait until the computing power of the entire network rises before delivering it to customers.

In 2013, when the currency price was soaring all the way, such cases were endless. Zhang Nanxuan recalled that there were several times when he couldn't deliver the goods because he was cheated. "Looking for a partner to produce a chip, but they found this chip to be very popular, and they just sold it for a price increase, and then came back and said to you that they lost it." "There are round crystals used for machine packaging in the warehouse. When I used it, I suddenly found it was gone. It was very strange. Someone secretly took it for sale. "

"Even if you have a good relationship, there will be problems in the interests." After being cheated several times, Zhang Nanzhang concluded that at the time when the mobile mines changed hands, they could sell for more than ten times the price. Big. "

Another genius boy who invented the ASIC mining machine, the scam he encountered was even more dangerous, which directly led to his disappearance and disappearance.

In 2014, after the crazy Bitcoin MT GOX exchange collapsed and other reasons, it plummeted from a peak of 8,000 yuan to several hundred yuan. The sluggish currency price directly affects the sales of mining machines. In order to open the situation, the game of "combined mining" has become popular in the circle. Specifically, the investor provides the supporting facilities such as the site and power, and then cooperates with the mining machine manufacturer, and then the two will be divided after mining coins. More advanced will also add a financial futures model to this gameplay, that is, use the mining machine's computing power as a collateral, with the number of coins that can be mined in a period of time in the future, first borrow Bitcoin on some trading platforms, waiting for the mining machine After production, it will be returned to the trading platform. In this step, only a certain annualized interest need to be paid.

Zhang Nanzhang said that a team that invented the game in 2014 invited him to cooperate with him, and the other party provided a venue in Anhui. However, after visiting the inspection, Zhang Nanyi vaguely felt that there were some uncontrollable links. For example, the consignment of the mining machine was out of his control. Whether it was really lost or damaged was not transparent, and it was also difficult to prevent them from using the machine to deceive the platform to borrow bits Coins, so they declined them.

But Roasted Cat believed it, and checked in a large number of miners. Superimposed on the lowering of the price of the currency and the failure of research and development, I look forward to the roast cat who turned over through joint mining. After finding that he was deceived, he disappeared strangely. The only record that can be checked is a record of air ticket purchase to Thailand, but The whereabouts remain unknown.

Although it has been 5 years, Zhang Nanxun's tragedy about roasting cats is still a cold sweat. "It was me who was almost deceived." To his regret, the group who had cheated roasted cats at the time was still active in the mine. Circle, impunity.

Drive into the AI ​​at night

Zhang Nanzhang, who had escaped the dangerous scam, gradually ushered in the recovery of the mining machine market and occupied the market position of the leading enterprises. According to Frost & Sullivan's data, in the six months ended June 30, 2019, Jia Nan ranked second among global bitcoin mining machine designers and manufacturers. According to Frost & Sullivan, during the same period, the Bitcoin mining machines sold by Jia Nan accounted for 21.9% of the total computing power of all Bitcoin mining machines sold worldwide.

In 2016, with the lead in Zhang ASIC's leading position in the ASIC field, he discovered a new excitement point: With the help of Bitcoin mining machine's computing technology accumulation, experience can be copied to the forefront of the world's technology-artificial intelligence.

Zhang Nanxun still remembers the scene when he decided to approach AI. Jia Nan just developed a 16-nanometer technology mining machine chip. On the way back to the celebration party, a car was discussing what else could be done besides mining. "Everything is said, and some people suggest that it should be a mobile phone." Among the rumors, Zhang Nanxun, who drove at night in Heigulongyu, suddenly thought of using ASIC technology to optimize the calculation of AI.

"People with a software background don't know or do not realize that ASIC computing technology can break through the improvement brought by Moore's Law, which can reach many times, especially on the side." Zhang Nanzhang, who had this idea, began to cast films in the current period. By the way, cast some AI chips.

A person from Canaan Technology introduced that among the elements of implementing artificial intelligence, algorithms are generally the most valued link, but computing power has been ignored. Algorithmically, chip makers AMD and Nvidia are at the forefront of deep learning through the graphics cards (GPUs) they design and produce. However, after years of accumulation and development, the algorithm has become very mature, and the computing power factor has become the biggest shortcoming that restricts artificial intelligence. "Why can't some artificial intelligence robots walk upright? The root cause is still computing power."

He determined that at the chip level, Bitcoin mining machine chips have gone through the process from CPU to GPU to ASIC dedicated chips. Similarly, artificial intelligence chips will repeat the process from CPU to GPU to ASIC.

However, this time, Jia Nan Technology is facing a rather strong opponent. Google, AMD, NVIDIA and other top players, whether in research and development funding support, or in the accumulation of technology and data, can not be underestimated.

Zhang Nanyi introduced that the AI ​​chip designed by Jia Nan is mainly applicable to two directions of machine vision and machine hearing. Currently, the second-generation chip is being developed, and it is expected to reach mass production standards in early 2020.

Reflected in the level of revenue, Zhang Nanzhang said that he has seen a lot of market demand. For example, in smaller scenarios such as access control, he can get tens of millions of yuan in revenue a year. After expanding more application scenarios, "There are no problems with hundreds of millions of revenues."

At the same time, in terms of improving end-side computing capabilities and reducing costs, Zhang Nanyi believes that it is more suitable for companies that are born out of the blockchain mining industry, because the output of the mining machine and the scale effect brought by the supply chain can significantly reduce the end-side Development costs.

This is also the new story that Jianan Technology wants to tell the capital market. In the prospectus, Jianan labeled itself as: a "semiconductor company" and "leading supercomputing solution provider" for the development and production of AI chips. .

Zhang Nanzhang attributed the previous success in the field of mining machinery to the occasional and general trend together. "All the successes, let's consider the stage success, are because you are in line with the big trend … you must find the right direction, This is the first thing. "

Now, AI is the new direction of Jia Nan. Facing the unknown, he often used a sentence of Kennedy to motivate the team, "We decided to go to the moon and do related things in this decade, not because they are simple, but because they are difficult."