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. 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.
Comparing the miners starts with understanding what it takes to make a Bitcoin. 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. 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. 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. Which is where this round-up comes in. How much money will it make and how easy is it to run? How lucrative the process is depends not only on the cost of the hardware but the time you have to tend it, how stable it is and, crucially, how many hashes it can do for a given time and the cost of the electricity to do this. The value of coins often drops below the cost of the electricity used to make them.