Get Our NewsletterWIRED’s biggest stories delivered to your inbox. Bitcoin craze, which has seen the value of the digital currency increase more than six-fold over the past few months. You can do it fastest bitcoin miner old-fashioned way: buying low and selling high. But for the sophisticated digital-currency investor, there’s a whole other world of Bitcoin speculation: the Bitcoin mining rig.
And it hasn’t even shipped yet. Over the past year, a handful of companies have raced to build a new generation of computers that are specifically designed to mint digital money, and many speculators across the Bitcoin world are dying to get their hands on the latest hardware. This week, one of these companies, Butterfly Labs, is finally shipping its first custom-designed machines, six months behind schedule. If Bitcoins are the fiat currency alternative for techno libertarians, then Bitcoin miners are the digital mint operators who keep the whole thing running. Bitcoin transactions are not registered with any central bank or brokerage firm or website.
They’re logged by a peer-to-peer network of computers. For Bitcoin miners, the name of the game is cryptography. Bitcoin network and convert them into more cryptographic hashes faster than someone else, they have a better chance of winning that 25 Bitcoin payout. When Bitcoins were first introduced, you could win the hashing lottery with a regular old personal computer. In fact, it now takes about 9 million times as much processing power to produce Bitcoins as it did in the beginning. So, for any Bitcoin miner to have a reasonable chance of winning, they have to seriously up their game. That’s where the new mining gear comes into play.