| LONDON, March 7
LONDON, March 7 Britain's first machine for
dispensing digital currency opened for business in a cafe near
London's "Silicon roundabout" tech hub in east London on Friday,
offering customers the ability to exchange bank notes for
Nick Letchford, managing director of the group that owns
the Old Shoreditch Station cafe, decided to install the machine
after noticing the popularity of bitcoins among his customers
working nearby in the digital industries.
"It gets used regularly based on where we are located," he
said. "There are lots of technology-orientated consumers within
our area, and it caters very easily for them," he said.
"Currently people are buying coffees and beers with
bitcoins, mostly beers actually," Letchford added.
He sees a mainstream future for the virtual currency, even
though the top bitcoin exchange has collapsed and the currency
has been volatile due to speculation as well as prone to
At the beginning of March, the Tokyo-based company Mt. Gox,
once the world's biggest bitcoin exchange, declared bankruptcy
saying it had lost bitcoins and cash worth some half a billion
dollars due to hacker attacks.
In 2012, a leaked FBI report said the virtual currency was
an "increasingly useful tool for various illegal activities
beyond the cyber realm".
Bitcoin, which has been growing in popularity, relies on a
network of computers that solve complex mathematical problems as
part of a process that verifies and permanently records the
details of every bitcoin transaction.
The currency came into existence in 2009, with the value
negotiated by individuals chatting on bitcoin forums. The
whistle-blowing site Wikileaks and other organisations began to
accept the currency for donations, and by the end of 2012 some
1,000 organisations had followed suit.
Customers who use the machine in East London are charged an
8 percent commission, and each customer is limited to 1,000
pounds ($1,700) in transactions per month.
"I think it is very much a burgeoning thing," Letchford
said. It's not mainstream in any way, but I think from a
vendor's perspective it is so straightforward and simple. There
is a future in it as it becomes embraced by the mainstream."
(editing by Jane Baird)