World’s Worst Bitcoin Mining Rig

Even if we don’t quite understand what’s happening in a Bitcoin mine, we all pretty much know what’s needed to set one up. Racks of GPUs and specialized software will eventually find a few of these vanishingly rare virtual treasures, but if you have enough time, even a Xerox Alto from 1973 can be turned into a Bitcoin mine. As for how much time it’ll take [Ken Shirriff]’s rig to find a Bitcoin, let’s just say that his Alto would need to survive the heat death of the universe. About 5000 times. And it would take the electricity generated by a small country to do it.

Even though it’s not exactly a profit center, it gives [Ken] a chance to show off his lovingly restored Alto. The Xerox machine is the granddaddy of all modern PCs, having introduced almost every aspect of the GUI world we live in. But with a processor built from discrete TTL chips and an instruction set that doesn’t even have logical OR or XOR functions, the machine isn’t exactly optimized for SHA-256 hashing. The fact that [Ken] was able to implement a mining algorithm at all is impressive, and his explanation of how Bitcoin mining is done is quite clear and a great primer for cryptocurrency newbies.

[Ken] seems to enjoy sending old computer hardware to the Bitcoin mines — he made an old IBM mainframe perform the trick a while back. But if you don’t have a room-size computer around, perhaps reading up on alternate uses for the block chain would be a good idea.

[via Dangerous Prototypes]

26 thoughts on “World’s Worst Bitcoin Mining Rig

  1. Nah, the Alto is cool and all, but not the GREAT granddaddy… That would go to the Scientific Data Systems SDS 940 at the heart of Doug Engelbart’s NLS (oNLine System), featured in the ever awe inspiring 1968 “Mother of all Demos”.

      1. There is a startup in Paris that offers “free” electrical heaters. Well, you have to pay the electricity consumption. These heaters are actually computers, computing. A shame I can’t remember the society’s name.

  2. “As for how much time it’ll take [Ken Shirriff]’s rig to find a Bitcoin, let’s just say that his Alto would need to survive the heat death of the universe. About 5000 times. And it would take the electricity generated by a small country to do it.”

    That’s an expected average value.

    It’s possible that he could find a block in a minute.

    It’s not likely, certainly, but it is possible.

  3. That’s fine as a proof of concept, but I sincerely hope that Ken Shirriff will NOT keep that precious piece of computer hardware (and history) crunching away at nothingness. He seems like a smart guy, so I’m sure that he’s figured out the economics on this endeavor. Nice article though and I’m still not interested in BitCoin ( or any other sort of crypto currency), maybe I’ll read up on his exploits.

  4. Couldn’t he make money faster by selling access to the Alto? A fee per hour, surely there are lots of people who’d like a chance to try one. Not many computers can be more legendary than the Alto.

    Of course, if he’d done this earlier, he might have had success with bitcoins. It took less resources in the early days.

    Michael

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