I attended the first Bitcoin World Conference and Expo, held in a second-floor meeting room in a midtown Manhattan hotel, on a Saturday in August 2011. The virtual currency was powering an alternative economy worth around $81 million USD. Roughly 75 attendees, mostly long-haired programmers and pasty cypherpunks, came from as far as Switzerland. After the talks, we took a group photo.

The Bitcoin economy is now worth more than $1 billion USD. More than 1,000 people showed up last weekend at the San Jose McEnery Convention Center for Bitcoin 2013, a much more professional affair hosted by the non-profit Bitcoin Foundation. Lanyarded Bitcoiners swarmed the trade show booths on Friday night, gripping wine in clear plastic cups, as a comedian opened the convention to a lukewarm reception. “Democrats, make some noise!” he cried. Feeble clapping. “Republicans, make some noise!” Another smattering. He looked puzzled until a heckler suggested a third group. “Libertarians, make some noise!” The audience roared.

Bitcoin 2013 had four speaker tracks, catered lunches, and parties with open bars. There was even a celebrity keynote given by Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, the athletic twins made famous by The Social Network, who recently purchased 1 percent of all the Bitcoins in circulation.

The twins took the stage around 8:30PM, by which time the crowd was so lubricated that a dull hum of conversation continued throughout the talk. Cameron was wearing a blue checked shirt and black pants. Tyler was wearing a black shirt and black pants. They compared Bitcoin to the automobile, voice over IP, and Amazon.com, all disruptive technologies with steep adoption curves.

“Do you guys remember Horton Hears a Who?” Cameron asked, referring to the Dr. Seuss book in which an elephant is ostracized after he discovers a microscopic race that lives on a dust-sized planet called Whoville. “Everyone here hears a Who.”