By now, you’ve likely heard of the up-start Bitcoin Gold team’s mission to “Make Bitcoin Decentralized Again.” This meme refers to how the BTG devs are trying to return GPU (graphics processing unit) mining to a Bitcoin chain.
So, for the uninitiated, what is GPU mining? What makes it interesting? And what are some of the general considerations in the GPU mining space at present?
Today, we’ll be giving these questions a closer look. Let’s dive right in.
What GPU mining is
The flood of new crypto users that’ve arrived on the scene in 2017 have had to learn a lot fast. Yet oftentimes a major blindspot for these new users is mining—it’s easy enough to sign up with Coinbase or the like and buy your first bitcoins and ether without ever knowing much about crypto mining at all.
That means newbies’ understanding of cryptocurrency mining unsurprisingly pales in comparison to Bitcoiners who have been in the community for years, some having been around back in the “golden days” when Bitcoin could still be GPU mined.
For anyone needing to brush up. GPU mining is a consumer-grade activity: it can be performed with regular, non-specialized computers and laptops. These GPUs compute the algorithms that help achieve consensus for Proof-of-Work (PoW) cryptocoins.
GPU mining was all the rage in the early days of crypto until specialized mining chips known as Application-Specific Integrated Circuits (ASICs) were specifically manufactured to maximize mining performance.
These new ASICs quickly overtook GPU mining as the hardware of choice in the community, paving the way for large-scale industrial mining operations to commandeer major swathes of the Bitcoin network’s hash power, for example, in the ensuing years.
Indeed, it all comes down to hash power. More hash power equals more money.
ASICs are exponentially faster than GPU mining set-ups, so many crypto networks’ hash power distributions have become centralized in the hands of a few corporate mega-mining operations dotted around the world in places like China, Mongolia, and Iceland.
Why GPU mining then?
Well, for example, as the Bitcoin Gold team suggests GPU mining can theoretically be done by anyone and everyone because it doesn’t require specialized equipment.
Everyday GPU miners don’t need the best or most expensive mining rigs, and they don’t need the most hash power to get the most money: they just want some hash power to get some money.
Basic mining set-up - Image via Honeycomb-ming.com
And in mining altcoins that do allow for GPU mining, getting some today courtesy of the old laptop you have laying around could be well worth it if these altcoins surge in price in the coming years.
The promise of GPU mining is a populist promise, then. Little guys can control the network, not just the massive industrial crypto mining farms.
What companies are in the space right now
As you can imagine, the surging popularity of cryptocurrencies like Ethereum—which can be GPU mined—have resulted in titanic earnings boosts for the graphics board market.
No, seriously: the graphics board market has rocketed +34% in Q2 of 2017 alone, largely on the backs of Ethereum GPU miners. GPU shortages have spiked this year, causing the price of some graphics board products to explode by as much as 400%.
As the John Peddie Research firm put it, “Ethereum mining is the game changer this quarter.”
Accordingly, companies like AMD and NVIDIA are doing their best to consolidate their grip on the GPU hardware industry.
All in all, it’s clear that, while industrial mining farms aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, so, too, will GPU mining have an increasingly growing mainstream user base, as more users come into the space and acquaint themselves with the relative ease and affordability of GPU mining.
Disclaimer: These are the writer’s opinions and should not be considered investment advice. Readers should do their own research.