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Blockchain’s ‘grandfather’ ushers in Virginia Tech summit on technology

Before Scott Stornetta took to the podium in a Virginia Tech classroom on Friday, his professor host introduced him as the “Forrest Gump of computer science.”

Like the movie’s title character, Stornetta appeared to show up at key moments in tech history, through his research at a Xerox-founded firm in Silicon Valley and at a spinoff of then-Bell Labs. His work there would later provide him another moniker as the “grandfather of the blockchain.”

So it was fitting that Stornetta’s talk, part of the computer science department’s distinguished lecture series, by serendipity fell days before the university kicks off a major gathering of leaders in blockchain technology.

The “Blocksburg” summit, which runs Sunday evening through Tuesday, is the first industry hobnob of the university’s so-called Blockchain Ecosystem Catalyst project. That initiative began last year to build on a $3 million gift to the computer science department from Block.one, a company founded by a Virginia Tech alumnus that now has an office in Tech’s Corporate Research Center. As Tech solidifies its commitment to pump out computer science graduates, the university seeks to position itself as a leader in blockchain technology research.

Blockchain is a network of digital records linked together securely so that data can’t be modified falsely. Its most famous application is Bitcoin, where value of the cryptocurrency lies outside of a central authority and is determined by users who can see who owns what.

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