Akron made a big jump into the 21st century digital economy this month. A market near the University of Akron unveiled a brand-spanking new ATM featuring the online currency Bitcoin, preferred legal tender of computer hackers, illegal arms traders, and Silk Road types. The new box joins just a handful of similar devices scattered around Ohio and about 300 across the country. (Lee Road in Cleveland Heights was a bit of a Bitcoin boulevard destination, but reports say businesses have seen its use slowed there.
Starz Market cut the proverbial ribbon on the machine early last week, according to Ohio.com.
The store, located right across from the campus on E. Exchange Street, wedged the sucker between a "7-Up cooler and a tall stack of orange boxes filled with Triumph paper towel," the paper reports.
Because your parents might start asking: Bitcoin
is the online-only, bank-less form of financial interaction you can do using your computer or mobile device. The currency first popped up in 2009, the handiwork of a shadowy net head calling him or herself "Satoshi Nakamoto" (news actually just broke allegedly confirming that the founder is actually an Australian computer scientist
named Craig Wright).
Unlike credit cards, there are no fees attached to swapping Bitcoins, though users can agree on a fee in any given exchange. The currency also heavily favors anonymity, which is why international criminals hoping to duck the notice of authorities have embraced it. You can buy Bitcoins on an exchange (1 Bitcoin right worth $445.23 in US greenbacks) or "mine" the currency, which is when you solve complex puzzles and are awarded Bitcoins in return.
The Akron machine is the 13th Bitcoin dispenser in the Buckeye State, according to coinatmradar.com.
The site numbers 310 machines across the whole country. Locally, it appears there are currently four Bitcoin machines in the Cleveland area, including one at the Horseshoe Casino downtown.