Mining bitcoins on a Nintendo


His friends know [gbg] as an aficionado of just about anything with a 6502 processor in it. He’s also interested in bitcoins. A while back, a friend asked if it would be possible to mine bitcoins with an old Nintendo Entertainment System. While this suggestion was made in jest, it’s not one of those ideas anyone can let go of easily. Yes, it is possible to mine bitcoins with an NES, and [gbg] is here to show us how.

Mining bitcoins is simply just performing a SHA256 hash on a random value from the bitcoin network and relaying the result of that calculation back to the Internet. Of course this requires an Internet to NES bridge; [gbg] brought in a Raspberry Pi for this task. There’s the problem of actually getting data into an NES, though, and that’s something only a USB CopyNES can handle. After doing some 32-bit math, the NES sends this out to the Raspberry Pi and onto the bitcoin network.

When you consider that even a high-end gaming computer has little chance of mining a bitcoin in any reasonable amount of time, there’s little chance RetroMiner will ever be able to mine a bitcoin. It’s all random, though, so while it’s possible, we’ll just appreciate the awesome build for now.


  1. Bernd says:

    Has science gone to far?!

  2. hunterz0 says:

    Wouldn’t the Raspberry Pi be faster at the calculations than the NES? The RP can output to a TV as well. This just seems silly.

  3. tyco says:

    Because how cool would it be if there was a bitcoin out there that was mined by a 1.76MHz 6502! That’s why people do things like this. Hacking is all about making things do things they weren’t designed to do. This absolutely fits that definition.

    • Bob says:

      The problem is there won’t ever be (you might argue that there is a very slim chance, but I would counter that there is more chance of aliens coming down and giving you a bitcoin). The difficulty rate is not only high now even for topend hardware, but also ever increasing.

  4. Chris says:

    This writeup really isn’t complete without a hash rate.

  5. Dojo says:

    When mining on a pool he should be able to get some satoshi’s. It should find at least 1 share a day I think…

  6. isama says:

    I want a beowolf culster of this :P

  7. I’ve been mining on the Pi’s CPU for a few weeks, purely for entertainment purposes. If you join a pool you’ll send them a few shares a day. I get about 180Kh/s from the CPU algorithm. Which is stupendously slow in terms of mining rigs… something like 3500 years per “expected” block generation. The NES will be a lot (lot) slower. I approve! :)

    • Galane says:

      How is a RasPi a faster miner than a GeForce 9800GT? I only get 22KH/s on mine with cudaminer, and that’s five times the rate I can get from the AMD Phenon II X2 555 3.2 Ghz CPU.

      I’ve found a super deal on a Sapphire Radeon HD 6870 (300+ Kh/s) and an ASICminer USB Block Erupter. Block erupter was $12.49 on Amazon, after spending $10 in credits I got from Swagbucks. The video card was in a lot of four, $111 on an auction. Two of them won’t be useful for mining, the 4th wasn’t identifiable on the auction site but looks like it could possibly be useful. If not, I’ll put the 9800GT in the second slot and boot XP to mine with both. (Damn you, Microsoft for making Vista and later only capable of running one video driver! What’s next, limiting Windows to one network protocol and interface at a time, like Mac OS was?)

      The ASIC will do SHA256 switch pool mining while the GPU will do Scrypt switch pool, both on There’s ways to get Bitcoin without mining for it directly.

      My electricity is six cents a KWh so that GPU will only cost about 24 cents a day (plus whatever the rest of the PC uses) and the ASIC’s cost to run will be negligible.

  8. Alex Rossie says:

    Why not participate in one of those shared schemes?

  9. NewCommentor1283 says:

    i think the REAL point here is the software to do 256bit SHA alogarythms on an 8-BIT cpu. a CPU that MOST of the world sees as “only capable of games” and then doing something like bitcoins…

    shows just now “universal” a CPU is and how “restrictive” a lot of our modern OS’s are. cough;CELLPHONEs, cough

    • NewCommentor1283 says:

      PS: to anyone wanting to know hashrate?
      my (uneducated) guess would be a day at least, maybe weeks, for one coin/hash

      8 bits on a 2mhz computer doing 8bit math is 2mhz fast (assuming 1:1 cycles/instruction)
      but 256 bits on a 2mhz 8bit CPU is like 2mhz/32=~0.06mhz (256/8=32)

    • hunterz0 says:

      The 6502 is a general CPU, not a video game console specialized one. Many early Atari, Apple and Commodore home computers used it.

      The NES CPU is not a “pure” 6502, but that doesn’t have much bearing here.

      Your point about cell phones couldn’t be more valid!

      • Chris says:

        The ARM CPU in your cellphone is also a general CPU. It happens to be more efficient and faster than a 6502. It’s just got extra things tacked on the side, like a GPU.

        The NES OS is even more restrictive than an OS like Android. There is not a lot stopping you running your own code on the CPU in a cellphone (aside from locked boot-loaders). The point about cellphones couldn’t be more INvalid.

        • S0AndS0 says:

          I mine on Android and use trading to make a bit more but I target alt-coins right now. Those that are interested in mining on Android (with Linux) may join me at the following link for a set of guides for installing Linux on Android with shroot instead of chroot and a script pack for installing many minerd ‘forks’ to their Android device (or really any Linux system based on Debian) for CPU mining of bitcoin and many others.

          If you like what I’m doing over there for Android and RPi consider signing up with the following referral link and posting; bugs, feature requests, or just to say thanks for making a script that cuts down on searching for apt dependencies and other repetitive tasks.

          I’ve been developing my skills both in privet and pubic projects for a many years now tords a singular goal and am now making my future project known for an ARM exclusive coin that tackles all the issues I’ve had with mining on Android while bringing new solutions to problems facing the general crypto coin community.
          You can find my other work (well accepted or not) under the user name of S0AndS0 many places now but I’ll likely be making bitbiz my current “home” for posting reticent information on all things Android Mining (and RPi) related.

  10. LP says:

    does the wii not have a gpu to mine with?

  11. Probably a silly question but what on the Pi sets the CPU speed?

    I was looking into hacking one to do custom neural net apps, where it doesen’t matter if the lifetime is measured in weeks or months as it will be actively cooled to 0 Celsius by Peltier stack.

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