A Simple Blockchain in Python
Introduction To BlockChain
BlockChain, an unalterable record system which is the backbone of cryptocurrency exchanges. Bitcoin being one of the most famous ones. A blockchain can be visualized as a database in which data can only be added, neither altered nor removed. The addition of a new block is also not something easy. The block chain is also not saved on one location but rather a copy of it is present to all the connected peers. This improves the availability and protects the data loss due to a single point failure. Block chains provides transparency and reduces the risk of frauds and is scalable.
Block chain uses three concepts:
- The Block: the block constitutes the chain (duh!..) and contains of the data, a self hash. We generate a random 32 bit number when the block is created(this is called a nonce). The 256 bit number combined with the nonce creates a hash for the block. The data in the block is signed by the nonce and the hash. along with data and self hash the block also contains the hash of the previous block in the chain.
- The Miners: miners are used for creating new blocks and adding it to the chain. The job of mining is not a simple one specially if the chain is giant. The miners have the task to find a valid nonce and hash combination, considering the nonce is 32 bit, hash is 256 bits, there are about four billion combinations to check for the right combination. On hitting the “golden nonce” the block is added to the chain. Imagine making change to a block in the chain and creating a domino where you need to make changes to every block after that block, running the miner for all those block. Well let’s just accept the fact it’s too much and hence the changes to a block , already in the chain is really hard.
- The Nodes: nodes are the devices that maintain the copies of the block chain. The decentralization of the block chain is what makes it so attractive for bitcoin users. No one organization is in control, infact the chain is distributed to the node — connected parties. This is why block chains are also called distributed ledgers. The nodes maintain their own copy of the blockchain and verify mining of any new blocks. The cahanges to the chain are easily accessible and can be read. This maintains trust and transparency between users.
As by now you might have gotten an idea how how complex it is to design and develop a blockchain at it’s full glory. So we will try to build a very simple blockchain where the block will have data, and the data itself is hashed to create a self hash(basically I am going to skip the whole nonce and then hashing thing as it is just a demo. Maybe in a future post).
The main motive of this post is to visualize a problem and try to make a software solution for the problem, which for us is to create a very basic form of the blockchian.
Creating a basic blockchain
The first thing that comes to the mind as soon as you hear a chain of blocks connected to the previous block, is a linked list. The linked list would be easier to visualize as a chain and it is a scaleable data structure. Okay, so we have a data structure to work on. Now the major question is, How will we create the hash. Well thanks to the huge python community we have a python module that will provide us with the hashing methods. I will be using hashlib and can be installed by a simple pip install hashlib.
We now create a basic structure for the block to be put in the linked list we will use as our blockchain.
For creating a new block we just create a new object of the block class(makes sense right!).
Next we create the chain class and give it a validation function and a function to add a new block. Basically it will check the chain is still un-tampered before adding the new block.
self.head=None #initialize the chain head
return False #can also have it raise an error
return True #valid chain so far #the function to insert a new block to the chain. Kind of like a miner function
#if the chain is valid
self.head=block(data)#if chain is empty, new node is head
temp=temp._next # while not last block goto next block
temp._next= block(data,prevHash=temp._hash) #added a new block to the end with data=data and a previous hash.
The above code can be used to create a simple blockchain with the basic characteristics. Blockchain is an awesome tech and can have a number of applications. We could even have a branched blockchain using a graph data structure and changing the hash connection rule.
Please comment any suggestions. I will try to post some more projects soon.