In recent years, the bitcoin mining turned into a huge branch of the economy. Its participants — large producers of ASIC-miners and pools – process transactions on the market with a capitalization of almost 40 billion dollars. At the initial stages, it was possible to extract bitcoins with the help of central processors (CPUs).
This is possible even now, although it is extremely inefficient. Nevertheless, there are still people who are engaged in Bitcoin mining on old computers and retro devices. However, this is done solely out of interest or for the sake of experiment.
Bitcoin mining on old computers and consoles
The ecosystem of Bitcoin mining is a competitive environment. It consists of pools that process transactions and simultaneously protect the network. Miners work on special software and use specialized integrated circuits (ASIC). ASIC chips are much more powerful in mining than standard CPUs. Undoubtedly, the Bitcoin mining on obsolete computers is not effective in comparison with modern equipment. That is to say, people engaged in mining on older devices are mostly driven by sports interests.
One of such crypto currency enthusiasts is Ken Shirriff. In the Bitcoin community, he added the Bitcoin sign to the Unicode encoding system. Shirriff also leads a popular blog. There he talks about his projects and how he extracts bitcoins using computing devices from the past. Recently, Shirriff restored the computer developed in the 70’s Xerox Alto, where he managed to run a 1.5-hash / sec mining. In 1973, Xerox Alto was the first device to support a graphical user interface (GUI).
In order to understand whether the algorithm worked, Shirriff used the input of a successfully extracted block. For anyone interested in mining on Xerox Alto, the code is available on Github.
Another Shirriff project (2015) – is mining with a 55-year-old IBM 1401 computer with a speed of 80 seconds per 1 hash. In the mid-60’s it was the most popular computer for business.
Bitcoin mining on the Nintendo game console
Another project – an incredibly slow miner, created in 2013 from the 1985 game console — Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). The future creator of the NES “mining system” joked with his friend about the Bitcoin mining on the 8-bit game console. After that, he created the Nintendo console with network output and performed SHA256 hashing. For other areas of the project, he used Raspberry Pi.
Raspberry Pi receives data fragments, compiles them into ROM, including the SHA256 algorithm and the current target data. Then, it sends them to the CopyNES USB console. Each ROM calculates and tests a single hash.
As a result, the NES miner started working on the Slush pool. However, according to the creator, more improvements are on the way.
Experimenters are also discussing the possibility of mining with the help of other game consoles, for example, PlayStation 3.
“Our opinion”: the practical outcome of such initiative is negligent for Bitcoin mining. However, the experiments hold nostalgic value and are welcome as such.