The Most Powerful Bitcoin Mining Rig Yet

In days of yore, one could mine Bitcoin without much more than an AMD graphics card. Now, without specialized hardware it’s unlikely that you’ll make any appreciable headway in the bitcoin world. This latest project, however, goes completely in the other direction: [Ken] programmed a 55-year-old IBM mainframe to mine Bitcoin. Note that this is technically the most powerful rig ever made… if you consider the power usage per hash.

Engineering wordplay aside, the project is really quite fascinating. [Ken] goes into great detail about how Bitcoin mining actually works, how to program an assembly program for an IBM 1401 via punch cards, and even a section about networking a computer from this era. (Bonus points if he can get to load!) The IBM boasts some impressive stats for the era as well: It can store up to 16,000 characters in memory and uses binary-coded decimal. All great things if you are running financial software in the early ’60s or demonstrating Bitcoin in the mid-2010s!

If it wasn’t immediately obvious, this rig will probably never mine a block. At 80 seconds per hash, it would take longer than the lifetime of the universe to do, but it is quite a feat of computer science to demonstrate that it is technically possible. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen one of [Ken]’s mainframe projects, and hopefully there are more gems to come!

18 thoughts on “The Most Powerful Bitcoin Mining Rig Yet

  1. I while back I remember reading about mining by hand i.e. SHA-256 calculated with pencil and paper. If there’s anything this whole bitcoin thing has brought to light, it is the wonderful and sometimes cooky ways people have mined.

    1. An obscure problem perhaps but it has lead to new strategies, perhaps eventually to be applied else where in the future. Then again isn’t that how some of the greatest advances in technology have been forged.

    1. Wow. Some of these comments are really disheartening… How can someone really expect ANYTHING involving a punchcard use the word ‘powerful’ in the context of performance? This project is ‘hacking’ at it’s finest: getting something to do what it was not originally meant to do. If the crushing awesomeness of old school big iron hurts your head, please, find some other site. I think needs some expert help help critiquing their projects.

  2. You call it a mining rig, and you concede that it is unable to mine a single block… If I send you a picture of my imaginary super computer which can handle the entire hashrate of the blockchain in a nanosecond, will you write a similar story about it?

    1. Once you actually build that supercomputer I’m sure they will. This isn’t about a guy pretending to do things, it’s about a guy that actually did something.

      Once you do something let us know so we can come criticise it :)

        1. The vast majority of Bitcoin miners spend the vast majority of their time failing to find Bitcoins. The old 1401 did some block-hashing thing that’s the method of Bitcoin. Mathematically, which is of course what counts, it can mine Bitcoins. And of course nobody can say that it won’t ever do it in practice, on the next block it processes.

  3. mthematically he could be lucky and find a block in the first try ^^ realy unlikely but possible…
    …if it would be valid to the bc system is another talk thoug…

  4. Maybe a cryptocurrency automatically requires a cryptic description and the author is merely channelling the programming used to assemble said miner, but I don’t have the much faith in online reporting. As such, I despair that our collective language skills have fallen into this much disrepair. To wit, methinks the mostly illiterate headline should actually read “power hungry” instead of the nonsense now permanently etched into the internet for all to copy. So very typical of the web…. from punch cards to punch line in a single page.

    1. It’s a pun, based on different meanings of the word “power”. An intentional misuse of words meant to provoke a surprised response, and thereby, humour.

      You attempted it with your “punch cards / punch line” thing, so I’m sure you’ll get the hang of it soon.

  5. I used to like the old green and white striped sprocket-holed computer paper. My Nana used to bring it home for us to draw on, waste paper from the Burroughs mainframe they had at her work. Sometimes if we were lucky it came with carbon paper!

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