What Agoric Learned from the American Information Exchange About Online Markets

Chip Morningstar, 24-Mar-2020

Starting back in the late 1980s, I led the engineering team that built the American Information Exchange (AMiX), possibly the first smart-contracting system ever created (and, that we know of, put into production), several years before Nick Szabo introduced the phrase “smart contract” into our vocabulary. (AMiX was actually one of the influences on Nick’s thinking that led up to that.) AMiX was an online information service that allowed users to buy and sell information products and consulting services, facilitating commerce among the users themselves. AMiX pioneered many of the smart contracting ideas that drive Agoric today.

Looking back at those pre-web years, it seems like computing power was equivalent to a hand-cranked drill, and data transfer was like sipping maple syrup through a straw. But at the time it felt like the resources we had were immense — we were living on the cutting edge of Moore’s Law, after all — and it felt only natural to us to try to take all that power and apply it to the problem of democratizing commerce in ways that had never before been practical.

Flash forward to today. We now have vastly more powerful computers, high speed internet, and blockchain. But we are still figuring out how to allocate computational resources. Looking back at the early accomplishments at AMiX gives us a profound view into the future of distributed electronic markets. Read more