MANIC MINERS: Ten Bitcoin generating machines

miningbitcoin17 Jan 2014 / The Register – Product Round-up Bitcoins are either the new bubble economy or the future of online commerce. It’s not the first time anonymous e-money has been tried – ask Mondex – but Bitcoin does seem to have traction.

There are things you might want that you can buy with it, such as Tesla cars and Virgin Galactic trips to space. Zynga has announced that it will take Bitcoin for in-game payments, and there is a host of things you can buy through Bit Premier.

So, if you want to get into mining – perhaps you have some rack space doing nothing – you need to know what is on the market.

This is an ambitious article. It aims to tell you what is available and what it costs. In any other market that’s reasonable, but here products go in and out of stock constantly, driven by an erratic supply chain, particularly for chips. Prices reflect the value of Bitcoins, prices of rival hardware and the availability of that rival hardware. And much of this is shrouded in truths, half-truths and lies. Even more secretive is the company 21e6 which has raised $5m to build ASICs it will only use itself.

Comparing the miners starts with understanding what it takes to make a Bitcoin. Please forgive any over-simplification. Briefly, there is an algorithm to work out what is the next Bitcoin to be mined. Solving this requires a number of hashing operations. How many depends on how many coins have been minded previously so it’s an increasing level of difficulty. Initially this could be done with moderately specced PC but as more coins got mined this moved to using code, which took advantage of the super-fast graphics processors on video cards and then to dedicated hardware: ASICs designed purely to mine Bitcoins. Even these have evolved from homebrew to large technical teams.

If the bottom falls out of the Bitcoin market, all that equipment is useless. There is no other purpose to which it can be put. The processing is immense. While you can’t directly link mining hashes with FLOPS, it has been a couple of months since Bitcoin mining passed 1019 petaflops, or roughly the computing power of all the other computing tasks in the word – not allowing for what might go on in the NSA and GCHQ…… Read more

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