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Unveiling Casey Rodarmor: The mastermind behind Bitcoin Ordinals and Runes Protocol

Casey Rodarmor is a prominent Bitcoin developer, creator of Ordinals and, most recently, Runes Protocol. But he is, at heart, an artist.
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writer.c98
5 min read
Published Apr 08 2024
Updated May 13 2024
casey rodarmor

Ethereum is a “Rube Goldberg machine” – unnecessarily complicated

Born in 1983 in California, America, Rodarmor hails from a family deeply rooted in literature and technology. His mother, an author, and his father, a former editor of PC World Magazine, instilled in him a passion for both creativity and innovation.

Rodarmor's journey into the technology field began in 2010, where he found a platform to freely explore his creative ideas. 

He attended a community college and failed many classes but still graduated with a 4.0 GPA. “I hadn't been the best student, but every time that I dropped out or failed classes, I would play these weird administrative tricks to make sure that those grades never got on my GPA,” Rodarmor said. “I kind of fooled them and then was able to transfer to UC Berkeley”.

Rodarmor graduated with a Bachelor of Computer Science in December 2009, paving the way for his future endeavors.

After stints at tech giants like Google, where he worked as a site reliability engineer, Rodarmor found his calling in the Bitcoin ecosystem. His involvement with Chaincode Labs allowed him to delve into Bitcoin Core, the primary code implementation of the Bitcoin network.

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Bitcoin BitDevs are an integral part of Bitcoin culture. Photo: Bitcoin Magazine

As the co-host of SF Bitcoin BitDevs in San Francisco, a community that holds monthly meetups to discuss technical aspects of Bitcoin, Rodarmor demonstrated his commitment to testing new ideas within the Bitcoin network. 

Rodarmor began working full-time on Ordinals in 2022, although he had first learned about NFTs in 2017. However, during that period, he wasn't particularly interested in digital art that could be created, bought, and sold. Instead, he briefly toyed with the idea of establishing a digital art house.

Inspired by Ethereum's "Art Blocks" creator Erick Calderon, Rodarmor ventured into Ethereum smart contract development using Solidity. However, he quickly became frustrated with the blockchain, describing it as a “Rube Goldberg machine”.

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“I wrote an ERC-721 contract that was like an NFT contract on Ethereum. But as I wrote it, things were bad. Solidity's programming model is bad, everything is super insecure compared to the building blocks of Bitcoin," Rodarmor said.

Ordinals drew inspiration from Satoshi Nakamoto

Thus, the idea for Ordinals was born—a project aimed at introducing digital art creation on the Bitcoin network.

Ordinals introduce a method to number Satoshis sequentially and then write data onto those Satoshis to create digital artifacts, Rodarmor explained. "The idea behind this project was ‘Wow, wouldn't it be great if I could create and sell my own digital art?’”

In fact, Rodarmor was directly inspired by Satoshi Nakamoto, the anonymous founder of Bitcoin. Nakamoto added references to something called 'atoms' in Bitcoin's original codebase, which sparked the inception of the Ordinal theory.

I'm the kind of person that if I'm not working on something, I'm often bored and kind of depressed. So being back working on it makes me happy
Casey Rodarmor

For Rodarmor, Ordinals are a labor of love. He used savings from previous jobs in the technology industry to develop the project. Despite receiving a donation in Bitcoin, Rodarmor is unsure if this will help him 'break even'.

Ordinals have experienced considerable success. However, Rodarmor has faced substantial criticism on social networks from Bitcoiners who oppose this protocol. In the summer of 2023, nearly six months after Ordinals officially launched, Rodarmor felt the need to step back and was uncertain about his return.

Nevertheless, just a short time later, in September 2023, he resumed his efforts with plans to launch Runes Protocol.

"I'm the kind of person that if I'm not working on something, I'm often bored and kind of depressed," he said. "So being back working on it makes me happy."

‘If Runes fails, I will commit seppuku’

Runes Protocol is designed to establish the standard for issuing fungible tokens on the Bitcoin network. It aims to address the intricate challenges present in existing token protocols like BRC-20.

Runes adopts the UTXO (unspent transaction output) model, streamlining the processes of token issuance, transfer, and burning within the Bitcoin ecosystem while remaining compatible with the network's native structure.

Rodarmor elaborated on the concept of creating Runes in a blog post, stating:

“I'm not sure creating a new fungible token protocol for Bitcoin is a good idea. Fungible tokens are 99.9% scams and memes. However, they don't appear to be going away any time soon… Creating a good fungible token protocol for Bitcoin might bring significant transaction fee revenue, developer mindshare, and users to Bitcoin.”

ordinals conference
Rodarmor at the Ordinals conference held in Singapore in 2023. Photo: Coin98 Insights

This sentiment mirrors Rodarmor's approach when creating Ordinals, which aimed to make Bitcoin 'fun again.' With this mindset, there's no denying that Rodarmar epitomizes a true Bitcoiner.

"Casey is the most knowledgeable Bitcoiner I've ever met. He literally knows everything about Bitcoin and has been obsessed with it for a decade," Erin Redwing, co-host of Rodarmor's podcast "Hell Money," said. "He would never self-describe this way, by the way. He's very humble."

Runes Protocol is slated to launch during the Bitcoin halving, expected to occur in mid-April this year. Rodarmor joked on Twitter that if the market capitalization of the Rune ecosystem does not reach one billion USD within a month of Runes' launch, he will commit seppuku.

The development of Ordinals and now Runes has consumed all of Rodarmor's time. However, he noted that in the past, he undertook similarly demanding projects. For instance, about ten years ago, he embarked on building a musical instrument that utilized capacitive sensors and a microcomputer, reminiscent of a theremin.

"I went through this whole fabrication phase where I was making silicone pads with embedded conductive fabrics and using a laser cutter to get these different shapes of metal and pouring rubber molds to make control surfaces," he said.

Additionally, there was a period when Rodarmor created visual elements for electronic music, programming everything from scratch. More recently, he has been experimenting with ceramics.

Rodarmor expressed a preference for art that serves a purpose. He finds purely ‘abstract’ art rather boring.

Although Rodarmor never explicitly stated it, he recognized programming as an art form, or at least acknowledged its potential as an artistic process. He described his 'methods' for crafting pottery wheels that spin effortlessly and coding mesmerizing visual effects with a trance-like quality in strikingly similar terms.

"It's about sitting there and writing an algorithm and tweaking it over and over and over again until you get something new," he said.