I finally finished my research on how to display units for Bitcoin and satoshis readable. I had to look very exhaustively at how units and prices are generally displayed around the world, and the varying size of these numbers, and also some research into types of colour-vision impairment.
I started many months ago, back when I was contributing towards a project, Cash Consortium, for building best practices and guidelines for wallets and other suggested standards. Currently, that organisation has been on hiatus for a long time, and no idea if it will come back since SV and BCH split.
Luckily, the research and suggestions apply to any kind of chains and displays using the same units as BTC and Bitcoin SV.
I think it is quite unfortunate that many apps and games do not think about colour-vision impairment in mind when being designed, especially when it affects so many people. Because Bitcoin is for all, there was a lot on my mind (and alot of reading to do) about how to crystallize the similar parts of global culture and societies, and their relationship to money, currency, and reading numbers.
So, how do we make something like 100000000 satoshis (1 "Bitcoin") readable?
Or 189325989 satoshis?
Firstly, one might think, "Let's use Bitcoin units! Let's use a decimal":
1.89325989 Bitcoin.
But what if I want to buy a coffee with BTC (back when it worked), and the cost is 0.00067899 Bitcoin?
Ugh, that is kinda awkward and terrible. In the first case where the amount was big, I could ignore alot of decimals. But when the amount is small, it's harder to know where you should "cut off".
That is the first wall you will hit into when trying to display units: The Bitcoin unit, and the satoshi unit, are very far apart.
And this is where people start shouting: "Let's use bits! Let's drop the Bitcoin unit".
And this is the same point when I want to tell people: "Whooaaa hold your horses. We really don't need to introduce more units. What we need is a way to help people *count* more easily."
With big, whole numbers, many countries have conventions for separating digits at each 1000, like: ¥‎397,000,000 (Japanese yen)
Pretty easy to read isn't it? But the problem with Bitcoin units, is they dont fit into these nice sets of 1000s, a "Bitcoin" has a very strange number of satoshis making up a whole unit.
So what are we to do?
Instead of looking at things in black and white, why don't we look at them in colour?
The previously "awkward" set of 8 decimals places of satoshi values for one Bitcoin is much clearer when you look at them as "areas".
When a number is very big, which area should I focus on? With the colour coding, the information given by the *colour* of the starting digits, is already alot of information in itself too. It gives you a delineation of under or over 1 Bitcoin. And there are other useful delineations.
For example, with the current price of BSV, I can pretty much ignore all the yellow values because they are in sub-cents. Yet, it is good I can see all of these satoshis, because the value can fluctuate alot: BTC at current levels, or at peak, meant that part of the yellow values also had some relatable value, like cents.
The idea is to help people focus on the part of the number that will indicate something to them about the cost and value of that transaction. In this way, it doesnt really matter if Bitcoin gradually increases in value: You would use the same colour system, but just re-calibrate your own idea of what is "expensive" and what is not (which is personal to yourself, and depends alot on your socioeconomic status along with the price of Bitcoin).
Currently, for BSV, the red digits in the middle might represent everyday use values (buying coffee, or food items, or clothes), so if a number starts with red, with no blue, a user can already subconciously know it is a kind of "normal" payment if it starts with a red number If however, a number is starting with blue values, they already know it is expensive.
And all these colours were chosen for their colour-impairment friendliness: All kinds of colour-vision impairment that I researched are able to differentiate those three colours quite clearly (enough contrast). For myself, I also found the delineating between big numbers and smaller numbers, to be useful.
Thanks for reading, and let me know your thoughts!
You can access the entire study via the paywall below, if you like.
Cheers, Reina


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I don't think we need to use different colors, in my opinion it looks childish.
We have 2 units in Fiat (dollars & cents, other countries have other 2 units but they are just called differently) and we have the same in Bitcoin (bits and satoshis)
This would be in Fiat $1,607,400.99 and this would be in bits b1,607,400.99 (or whatever icon bit should take, to represent 1.60740099 bitcoins, which is not hard to read at all, and good thing is it doesn't need any mindset adjustment.
So wallets should just start referencing their units in bits, not bitcoins or satoshis
We all know million bits is bitcoin, same how million dollars is... a million
So, instead of saying to someone "send me 1bitcoin", you can say "send me 1 million bits"... and this works, after all unit of bitcoin comes from bit-coin.
The main unit is: bit (like a dollar) and not bitcoin, and satoshi is sub-unit (like a cent)
   7mo ago
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Great work. Have you considered also using a different type of satoshi separator symbol? Colour and size cannot consistently be used across all interfaces and presentations.
Apostrophes instead of commas could be a good satoshi separator alternative.
Your examples below, in plain text usage with apostrophes:
Meal: 1698'8411
Dress: 7722'0050
Rent (1 bedroom): 11'2123'5126
Salary: 33'9768'2200
Lamborghini: 3104'2460'1000
   7mo ago
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I really like this work. But did you consider how people will be able to communicate these values by speaking ?
When I see ¥‎397,000,000, I can easily read it in my mind and say it to someone else. But when I see one of the BSV colored numbers, I don't even know what to say in my mind, I would have no idea how to communicate these numbers to someone, especially because we don't have units for 4 digits like we have with "thousands" and "millions" for 3 digits.
That's why I had this idea that the easiest way was to use what people already know for 3 digits but still count from the satoshi unit, using: satoshis (or sats), kilosatoshis (kilosats), megasatoshis (megasats), etc. In the case of the lamborghini, 310424601000 satoshis would become "310 Gigasats, 424 megasats and 601 kilosats", sounds pretty easy to say to me. Could even be abbreviated to only using "satoshis" only for the last word : "310 giga, 424 mega and 601 kilosats please".
Also you should consider that businesses will never present BSV prices with so much precision. Like they already do in euros, they will round up the numbers to provide more clarity. For example like they rarely sell a meal for 10.96€ but for 11€, they will not sell it for 16'988'411 sats but for 17'000'000 sats which is still worth 11€. So this ends up being only "17 megasats please" which is just as short as "11 euros please". This must be taken into account when researching how to display these units in real life (even if wallets will have to show more precision).
Hope this helps
   7mo ago
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Very good post Reina. I appreciate you taking the time to investigate this issue.
As an engineer who works with units every single day for the last 30+ years, I have to add my support for ED's reasoning (please take a look at his comment).
Treat 1 sat like 1/100th of a cent (bit). 1 bit is becomes the main unit. 1 bitcoin is then simply 1,000,000 bits or 1M bit (for the scientists and programmers).
If in future 1 bitcoin has the same monetary value as $1,000,000 USD today then it's exactly the same system as we have today. In the meantime, whilst the value is lower, things just cost a lot "more" in terms of bits vs USD.
Using a BSV "price" of $65 USD, and to keep the math trivial, let's say a coffee costs $6.50 USD.
This is 6.5/65 BSV = 0.1 BSV = 0.1 x 1,000,000 = 100,000 bits.
As the relative value of BSV increases over time, let's say a 100x increase to $6,500 USD, then coffee would cost 1,000 bits.
If an increase to something like $65,000, then coffee is 100 bits.
If the price got even higher than that, let's go with the McAfee number of $1,000,000, then one sat is worth 1 cent at that point and 1 bit is worth one dollar, and so coffee is 6.5 bits.
I think 100,000 bits, 1,000 bits and 6.5 bit are all easily workable and recognizable numbers that don't need any special handling.
The reality, IMHO, is that if we don't keep the handling of numbers as close as possible to current systems, it's just going to be another reason why people won't use it. We have to eliminate every excuse that people would find to avoid adoption. I feel like a different way of conceptualizing numbers is one such hurdle.
   7mo ago
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Nice idea, like it. I'd prefer to stick with the bitcoin unit, at least for now, but having colors in it would help to make it better readable
   7mo ago
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Hi Reina, I appreciate the research and thought you've put into these ideas, particularly some of the preliminary info on existing national currencies.
The colour system is an interesting idea. However, we frequently reference money in writing, and black and white text is the default on the internet plus books (plus Sharpie/chalkboard signage). I'm not sure that a different wallet interface would be a significant improvement. Not to be a party pooper, but it's a hard "no" from me on the chunking of numbers into groups of four. It's an unnecessary departure from the global standard system of place value in reading numbers in groups of three. I have experienced teaching children how to read numbers and do math, and this disconnect in digits and spacing would be too much for all but the 1% of whiz kids. It would be a huge barrier for children (and most people who are already not that comfortable with math) in understanding how to count/read numbers and money. I think it will be a long time before people are thinking and pricing in bitcoin (vs. fiat).
   7mo ago
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Hi, thanks for all the comments.
To quickly answer to Zhell and Trevor first, my idea is about how to make satoshis human comprehensible, readable. Right now its hard to think in satoshis, and because our world is currently based in fiat prices, and most merchants will accept in fiat-based conversion, not a nice clean price like 17000000sats, we cannot really change what merchants currently do, especially the majority that are accepting Bitcoin as a *secondary options*, not their most popular option. Many of them take the *current* rate of exchange which gives these kind of numbers 1729459339sats, and so on. In my opinion, the adoption of Bitcoin isn't so that we suddenly wake up and everyone is using Bitcoin and every merchant posts Bitcoin prices in nice round numbers. My prediction is, Bitcoin will coexist with fiat for quite a long time, and it is during this time, that the readability of values ultimately helps people slowly read Bitcoin values more natively.

It's like when I am a tourist and I first spend with any foreign currency, I only really have a rough approximation in my head, or some kind of assumption about the conversion. But what I hope is that over time, thinking in satoshis, especially during stable periods like quite bearish, sideways market, becomes more intuitive. And its always optional, since this is applied only to wallets and users that want to use it. It is not a global change.

For Ed, to expect people to use bits I think misses the point. At some point peoples spoke in Bitcoins, because it took many bitcoins to buy a pizza or coffee, now we speak about prices in sats for regular purpose. It's not very useful to make up a new unit everytime the rate happens to align in a way where it seems to be convenient. The bit and satoshi will not always remain "dollar and cent", it will vary throughout the progress and adoption of Bitcoin, so instead of making people, or expecting them to see or think a certain way, I wanted to give something that is more like a reading aid, where you can focus on the values that are important or not by area, and personally think about what the coloured areas mean: So orange-area might be too low to be even worth a few cents, that is by my own definition not significant. The colours dont need to change, but the value will change throughout Bitcoins lifetime, and this is just a way to read all the 8 dp, plus the Bitcoin value, easily and meaningfully.
   7mo ago