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All About Bitcoin Mining: Road To Riches Or Fool's Gold?

All About Bitcoin Mining: Road To Riches Or Fool's Gold?
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By now, you've probably heard all about Bitcoins. But what are they? And are people actually striking it rich "mining" these things? Today, we'll find out with a first-hand look into the world of this crypto-currency, straight from a Bitcoin miner.

I suppose the best place to start is in the beginning...

Satoshi Nakamoto, The Phantom

In 2009, a scientist calling himself Satoshi Nakamoto published an eight-page paper entitled Bitcoin: A Peer-To-Peer Electronic Cash System, along with working proof-of-concept source code. There was nothing unusual about this, except for the simple fact that there is no Satoshi Nakamoto. Stunningly, the author of a scientific paper had used a pseudonym.

The paper itself was not particularly revolutionary either; it built upon previous attempts at crypto-currencies, such as b-money and Hashcash. Satoshi’s true innovation was combining several known concepts like peer-to-peer networking and secure hashes with inventions of his own, namely a clever incentive system for the participants and an anti-inflation mechanism.

Silk Road and Illegal Drugs 

Being an anonymous crypto-currency, Bitcoins (BTC) were soon adopted for payments on Silk Road, an online marketplace for illegal drugs. Silk Road lives inside TOR (The Onion Router) and sports a transaction feedback system similar to the one used by eBay, allowing customers to avoid dishonest sellers. It is unfortunate that Bitcoins are still stigmatized as being linked to Silk Road, and overzealous politicians have used this coincidental connection to call for a ban of the cyber currency. While it is a well-known fact that most dollar bills in circulation have traces of cocaine on them, nobody in their right mind would use this fact as pretext to stigmatize U.S. currency.

MtGox and Other Bitcoin Exchanges 

So, how can you buy Bitcoins? First, create an account on MtGox.com (or any other Bitcoin exchange), and then wire money to that account. Once the funds arrive at the exchange and show up in your account, you can purchase Bitcoins at the current exchange rate. If desired, you can then send all or part of the Bitcoin balance to the Bitcoin wallet on your computer. Several different wallet programs are available for download, for instance Bitcoin-Qt or Multibit, and wallets are also available for mobile devices.

A Crisis in Cyprus and a Bitcoin Bubble

Economists have pointed out that a currency should not have an intrinsic value. For instance, it costs less than 10 cents to produce any U.S. banknote. However, there is a limited number of Bitcoins in circulation. In fact, only 21 million Bitcoins will ever exist. So, when demand exceeds supply, the price will rise.

Demand started to increase during the financial crisis in Cyprus, when a stunned public learned from the media that their bank deposits would be subject to a one-time 6.7% levy, or 10% for accounts valued more than 100,000 Euros. Even though the bank levy for small accounts was later rescinded, the mere suggestion that bank deposits are not safe from surprise retroactive taxation drove some people in EU member countries to look for ways to park their money anonymously. Due to this increased demand, Bitcoins began to appreciate against traditional currencies like the U.S. dollar and the Euro. As Bitcoins became ever more valuable, speculators jumped in, thus pouring gasoline on the fire.

The Burst of the Bitcoin Bubble and the Recovery

By mid-March, word had gotten out that by buying Bitcoins, one could double his investment within a week. By April 10th, a historical peak of $266 per Bitcoin had been reached. Speculators flooded MtGox (the major Bitcoin trading platform), overwhelming the server and causing trading to lag. At some point, a selling panic started. Finally, MtGox suspended trading in order to upgrade the trading server, and to exert a calming effect on the market. Once trading resumed, the Bitcoin’s price crashed to approximately $65 before recovery began. At the time of writing, one Bitcoin is valued slightly above US$120.

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  • 12 Hide
    dannyboy3210 , June 9, 2013 10:39 PM
    A very interesting read. I had been reading about Bitcoins (mainly because I just couldn't figure out what they were exactly), but this clears a lot of things up.
    Also, at the bottom of page 5, in the Comparison of FPGA and ASIC Chips table it says "Power Fraw".
  • 12 Hide
    phenomiix6 , June 9, 2013 11:37 PM
Other Comments
  • 8 Hide
    Darkman69 , June 9, 2013 9:49 PM
    Finally a proper write up on Mining Bitcoin with the good the bad and the reality.
  • -9 Hide
    esrever , June 9, 2013 9:54 PM
    How does mining new coins make sense if there will ever only be 21 million? I am so confused by that point.
    Another thing is, with an economic system like this, a billionaire can easily manipulate market prices and make extremely large amount of money and still be completely fine due to this being in a grey area of the law. You can't pump and dump stocks legally but it seems pretty easy for something like this considering you can dump the bit coins off as currency in any country.
  • -5 Hide
    s3anister , June 9, 2013 10:00 PM
    Quote:
    How does mining new coins make sense if there will ever only be 21 million? I am so confused by that point.


    To quote the Bitcoin wiki page: "The last block that will generate coins will be block #6,929,999 which should be generated at or near the year 2140."

    So to directly answer your question, the whole reason for mining bitcoins is because you'll most definitely be dead before the last block chain is even completed.
  • -6 Hide
    smeezekitty , June 9, 2013 10:14 PM
    Shitcoins definitely = fools gold!
    Huge waste computing power IMO
  • 1 Hide
    vmem , June 9, 2013 10:27 PM
    Quote:
    Shitcoins definitely = fools gold!
    Huge waste computing power IMO


    someone needs to rewrite the algorithm and somehow hook up block generation to folding@home or some similar constructive use of the computational power.
  • -1 Hide
    smeezekitty , June 9, 2013 10:28 PM
    Quote:
    Quote:
    Shitcoins definitely = fools gold!
    Huge waste computing power IMO


    someone needs to rewrite the algorithm and somehow hook up block generation to folding@home or some similar constructive use of the computational power.

    That would be a great idea. Verifying a relatively small hash to screen out the cheaters then perform something useful like F@H.

  • 12 Hide
    dannyboy3210 , June 9, 2013 10:39 PM
    A very interesting read. I had been reading about Bitcoins (mainly because I just couldn't figure out what they were exactly), but this clears a lot of things up.
    Also, at the bottom of page 5, in the Comparison of FPGA and ASIC Chips table it says "Power Fraw".
  • -8 Hide
    slomo4sho , June 9, 2013 11:02 PM
    Fiat currencies... I guess for some people the dollar wasn't worthless enough.
    It is amazing how you can lose your "wallet" and your funds permanently disappear from the pool.
  • -9 Hide
    toarranre , June 9, 2013 11:02 PM
    Never heard of this and I'm quite confused by it. Use graphics cards to find units of a currency that from what I can tell must be extremely succeptable to artificial inflation or all out collapse.
  • 12 Hide
    phenomiix6 , June 9, 2013 11:37 PM
  • 9 Hide
    csf60 , June 10, 2013 12:53 AM
    In 2010 I started bitmining and reached 3 bitcoins in 2 months with a 5850. Each bitcoin was worth 3$ at that point so I just gave up and lost my wallet. If I only knew 3 years later they would change for 150$ each... :face palm:
  • 3 Hide
    choz , June 10, 2013 12:58 AM
    Thanks for your calculations. I now have more things to laugh about here in Australia when I read about bitcoin "miners" setting up multi-gpu rigs when our power price is around the 25c per KWh mark and rising by 5% annually.
  • 0 Hide
    ET3D , June 10, 2013 1:16 AM
    I've only skimmed the article, but I didn't see a good discussion of mining pool, trading and all the DDoS, phishing and hacking that goes with it.
    The technical aspects and financial calculations are one thing, but going bitcoins is somewhat of a hornets' nest, and it's really worth discussing this stuff.
    I haven't mined seriously, but the first time I tried (for two weeks, generated half a bitcoin), I left the bitcoins in the pool and one of the pool's founders embezzled and took what was there and left. I've seen other pools hacked, and there are regular DDoS attacks on them, changes in the terms, all kinds of things you really need to follow carefully if you want to mine effectively. Just leaving your miner running and hoping that you'll get the expected coins eventually doesn't cut it.
    I currently mine a little LTC for fun (partly because after installing Catalyst 13.4 I can't mine BTC and can only mine LTC with an old cgminer version I have installed). I'm not sure that it's worth it financially, and I'll probably shut down mining in the not too far future.
  • 4 Hide
    Madn3ss795 , June 10, 2013 1:19 AM
    Quote:
    I bought a few Radeon HD 7790 graphics cards

    7790 already out in June 2011 ? :lol: 
  • 2 Hide
    immanuel_aj , June 10, 2013 2:28 AM
    Quote:

    Or better yet, enjoy this crazy sideshow from the bleachers.


    Yup, that's exactly what I'll be doing! There's always something in the news about it every month these days. :) 

  • 5 Hide
    uruquiora , June 10, 2013 3:05 AM
    this is why i think TH is one of the best IT news website around nowadays... thanks for a very interesting article and for sharing the good and the bad with newbies like me on that subject.
  • -1 Hide
    somebodyspecial , June 10, 2013 3:29 AM
    Maybe now we won't have to see this in benchmarks. It's over for gpus.
  • 0 Hide
    tlg , June 10, 2013 4:17 AM
    I am also wondering how he got the HD7790 in June 2011, except if this is a typo because later on in the same page he talks about November 2012.
  • 0 Hide
    dalmvern , June 10, 2013 6:05 AM
    Great article, I have been wondering what the fuss was all about. Now the only question I have is:
    What is all this processing power being used to do?
    As it was mentioned in an earlier comment, it would be great to use it for something like scientific research like F@H...but I have never seen anything explaining IF it is being used, and if it is, what it is being used to do.
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