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Inside the Race to Build the World’s Fastest Bitcoin Miner

 You can do it the 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.

Like the currency itself, this strangely lucrative game is heating up — in a big way. One mining rig — available for preorder at a cost of about $1,800 in February — is now selling for more than $22,000 on eBay. 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.

1 Comments in Response to

Comment by Ed Price
Entered on:

I haven't ordered, yet. But I have been thinking of ordering one of Butterfly Labs' 5 Gh/s machines - the little, cheap one, for about $250. At current cryptographic difficulty levels of a block, I should be able to decrypt a block - 25 Bitcoins - in about 8 days. At current rates of exchange, 1 block would be worth something like $3500. But, I'm not going to order. Here's why.

The Bitcoin core programmers are setting the cryptographic difficulty so that only about 5 and a quarter million coins will be mined in the second 4-year period of Bitcoin's life. When the REALLY FAST machines start coming online, the core programmers will simply increase the difficulty of the encryption so that my little 5 Gh/s machine won't be able to crack the code but, maybe, once a year, rather than once a week... if I am lucky. The core programmers will have to do this just to keep the whole program on schedule with regard to how fast the coins are mined.

Who will make out big time on this deal? The mining machine manufacturers will. Since these machines are designed for one thing only - to mine Bitcoins - they may not even be able to be used on Litecoins or Namecoins or on any of the other xxxCoins that happen to come into existence. New machines might have to be designed to mine all these Bitcoin spin-offs. The machine makers will rake it in. Most of us miners that use the machines will barely break even, if that.

Now, if I am wrong about this, please let me know, because I would like to get that little 5 Gh/s machine if I know I can, fore sure, mine a block in a month. Remember, Butterfly Labs is saying that it will take as much as 2 months for me to get my machine if I order today. So, by the time I get mine, there will be a lot of competition out there already.

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