Hashing Examples: The 3 Transformers You Need to Know (2023)

By Tibor Moes / Updated: June 2023

Hashing Examples: The 3 Transformers You Need to Know (2023)<br />

Hashing Examples

Imagine trying to find your favorite book in a gigantic library, without the help of a librarian or a categorization system. It would be nearly impossible, right? Well, hashing is like that super-efficient librarian who knows exactly where each book resides. It’s a system that converts a vast range of information into neat, manageable sections, allowing us to quickly find what we’re looking for.


Hashing is a process that converts input of any size into a fixed-size string of text, using a mathematical algorithm. It’s commonly used in computing to quickly find data and verify the integrity of information.

Example 1 – VSAM (1970): One of the first notable applications of hashing was in file systems, like IBM’s VSAM (Virtual Storage Access Method) in the 1970s. Hashing was used to speed up data retrieval by quickly locating the data record associated with a specific key.

Example 2 – SHA (1991): The Secure Hash Algorithm (SHA) was developed by the National Security Agency (NSA) in the United States. The initial version, known as SHA-0, had vulnerabilities, but it paved the way for improved versions, SHA-1 and SHA-2, which became widely used in cryptographic applications and protocols.

Example 3 – SHA-256 (2009): The advent of Bitcoin, a cryptocurrency, introduced a novel application of hashing. The Bitcoin network relies on a specific hash function called SHA-256 (a variant of SHA-2) for mining new bitcoins and for securing all transactions within the Bitcoin network. This revolutionary use of hashing not only transformed the world of finance but also initiated the era of blockchain technology.

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Hashing Examples In-Depth

VSAM (1970)

Have you ever wondered how a librarian could find a particular book amongst tens of thousands, all in a matter of minutes? As impressive as our librarians are, they have a secret weapon – the Dewey Decimal system, a classification that turns the seemingly impossible task into a walk in the park. Now, imagine if we could bring this level of organization to the sprawling world of computer data. Well, that’s precisely what happened in the 1970s with the IBM’s Virtual Storage Access Method (VSAM).

IBM’s VSAM was one of the first significant applications of hashing. Think of it as the Dewey Decimal system of the computing world. When implemented correctly, it could sift through a staggering volume of data and find the exact piece you’re looking for in no time.

So, how did it work? At its core, VSAM used something called a ‘hash function’ to transform a ‘key’ (think of it as a book title) into a ‘hash value’ (the book’s exact location on the shelves). This hash value was nothing but an address that pointed to where the data (or the ‘book’) was stored. With a well-chosen hash function, two different keys were highly unlikely to result in the same hash value. This meant that each piece of data could be quickly and accurately located, without the need to sift through irrelevant information.

This revolutionary approach was like a digital superhighway, providing a fast and direct route to the data you were searching for. By bypassing the need to check each and every data point, it exponentially sped up data retrieval. Suddenly, the vast libraries of data in computers could be navigated with librarian-like efficiency.

In essence, IBM’s VSAM was a milestone in the use of hashing. It transformed the process of data retrieval, making it quicker and more efficient. It was a testament to the magic of organization and a precursor to the sophisticated systems we have today. So, the next time you download a file in the blink of an eye, take a moment to appreciate the clever application of hashing that makes it possible.

SHA (1991)

You know those fascinating spy movies where secret codes are created that only specific people can crack? Well, the real-world version of those secret codes exists and they are made possible through the power of hashing. One of the most famous is the Secure Hash Algorithm, or SHA, created by the secretive National Security Agency (NSA) in the United States.

The story begins in 1991 with the initial version, known as SHA-0. Like the first pancake off the griddle, it wasn’t perfect. It had some vulnerabilities that clever hackers could potentially exploit. But it was an important step in the right direction. Think of SHA-0 as a rough draft in an author’s manuscript. It might not be the polished, final work, but it’s an essential part of the process.

Understanding these vulnerabilities pushed the NSA to refine and enhance the algorithm, leading to the birth of SHA-1. This newer version was akin to adding extra bolts to a lock, making it more difficult for would-be intruders to crack. It was stronger, safer, and more reliable, earning it widespread use in various cryptographic applications and protocols.

The evolution didn’t stop there. Like any technology, as good as SHA-1 was, there was always room for improvement. And so, SHA-2 was born. It was an even more advanced version, further enhancing the security and reliability of the hash function.

In the vast universe of data, these Secure Hash Algorithms acted as secure vaults, ensuring that precious information stayed out of the wrong hands. It was like sending a letter in an envelope with a tamper-proof seal, guaranteeing that the message would reach its destination without being read or altered.

So, when you’re enjoying those exciting spy movies, remember the real-world heroes of cryptography. Thanks to algorithms like SHA-1 and SHA-2, we can send and receive sensitive information with the confidence that it will remain safe and secure. The power of hashing, as demonstrated in the creation and evolution of the Secure Hash Algorithms, is truly remarkable and is a testament to the incredible advancements in the field of information technology.

SHA-256 (2009)

Think back to the days of the Gold Rush, where people would mine valuable nuggets of gold from the earth, sparking a revolution in wealth and industry. Now, imagine that instead of picks and shovels, miners use computers and algorithms. Welcome to the world of Bitcoin, a new-age Gold Rush that has redefined the very concept of currency.

In 2009, an entity named Satoshi Nakamoto introduced Bitcoin, a completely digital form of currency. However, this was not just a modern twist on money. Bitcoin introduced a unique application of hashing, the likes of which the world had never seen.

Just like in a physical mine, where a specific technique is used to extract gold, the Bitcoin network relies on a specific hash function called SHA-256, a variant of SHA-2, to mine new bitcoins. This process involves computers solving complex mathematical problems, and the first one to solve it gets rewarded with new bitcoins. This ‘mining’ process not only creates new bitcoins but also verifies and secures transactions within the Bitcoin network.

But how does hashing play into this? Well, hashing ensures that these transactions are secure and unchanged. It’s like an impenetrable seal on a letter, ensuring that no one except the intended recipient can read or alter the message inside. And this high level of security is crucial for a system like Bitcoin, where transactions are made without intermediaries like banks.

The introduction of Bitcoin didn’t just create a new type of currency. It initiated an entirely new era of technology – the blockchain era. Blockchain is like a public ledger of all Bitcoin transactions that have ever taken place. It’s transparent, secure, and cannot be tampered with, thanks to the power of hashing. And while Bitcoin was the first, countless other digital currencies, or cryptocurrencies, have followed in its footsteps.

So, next time you read about cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology, remember the power of hashing that lies at their core. It’s like the digital version of DNA, ensuring each transaction is unique, secure, and immutable. This revolutionary use of hashing has not only transformed the world of finance, but it’s also shaping our digital future.


Throughout the annals of computing history, hashing has emerged as an unsung hero. It has evolved from speeding up data retrieval in systems like IBM’s VSAM, to securing sensitive information with the NSA’s Secure Hash Algorithms, and even powering the digital currency revolution through Bitcoin. Like the invisible gears turning inside a well-oiled machine, hashing works behind the scenes to ensure our digital lives run smoothly and securely. It’s a testament to the magic of mathematics and the power of human ingenuity. As we stand on the brink of the future, who knows where this remarkable journey of hashing will take us next?

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Happy surfing!

Frequently Asked Questions

Below are the most frequently asked questions.

What is the purpose of hashing in computing?

Hashing serves two main purposes in computing. First, it helps in efficient data retrieval. It’s much quicker to find data using a hash function than it is to search for it item by item. Second, it maintains data integrity and security. Once data is hashed, it’s very difficult to reverse the process, which helps to keep the data safe from unauthorized access or alteration.

Why is SHA-256 used in Bitcoin?

SHA-256, a variant of the Secure Hash Algorithm 2 (SHA-2), is used in Bitcoin for its high level of security. The complexity of the SHA-256 hash function makes it extremely difficult for hackers to manipulate the transaction data. Also, it helps in the process of mining new bitcoins by creating a mathematical puzzle that miners must solve.

How is hashing different from encryption?

While both hashing and encryption are used for data security, they have some crucial differences. Encryption is a two-way function; data that is encrypted can be decrypted using the correct key. On the other hand, hashing is a one-way function; once data has been hashed, it cannot be reversed or decrypted. This makes hashing ideal for verifying data integrity, as any change in the original data—even a tiny one—will result in a different hash value.

Author: Tibor Moes

Author: Tibor Moes

Founder & Chief Editor at SoftwareLab

Tibor is a Dutch engineer and entrepreneur. He has tested security software since 2014.

Over the years, he has tested most of the best antivirus software for Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS, as well as many VPN providers.

He uses Norton to protect his devices, CyberGhost for his privacy, and Dashlane for his passwords.

This website is hosted on a Digital Ocean server via Cloudways and is built with DIVI on WordPress.

You can find him on LinkedIn or contact him here.

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