Please forward this error screen to 79. A lot of gamers have been caught off guard by the latest happenings in the world of cryptocurrency. 500 series cards in particular being out of stock at most places. If you haven’t heard of Bitcoin or cryptocurrencies, don’t feel bad—while some general awareness of bitcoin pc now exists, many people involved with the movement still don’t really know what it is, why we need it, or if we should even want it.
The brief synopsis goes something like this, and I’m intentionally skipping a lot of the complexity. Neal Stephenson’s book Cryptonomicon contained an idea like this back in 1999, and in 2008 Satoshi Nakamoto introduced Bitcoin to a cryptography mailing list, with the software going live January 2009. Bitcoin has gone from proof of concept to a major alternative financial movement. Bitcoin is created via a sort of distributed computing competition, dubbed ‘mining’ after the gold rush, where based on your computational contributions you have a chance of ‘finding’ a block of Bitcoins. This happens every 10 minutes on average, and the more you participate the higher the chance of mining a block.
Mathematically, that means there will never be more than 21 million BTC. The block rewards exist to entice people to run the software, because mining also secures the Bitcoin network. Basically, the difficulty of mining a block scales based on the total speed of the network, called the hashrate, and someone would need to control more than 50 percent of the hashrate to have a reasonable chance of hacking the Bitcoin network. The Bitcoin network hashrate has gone from tens of millions of hashes per second during its first year, to billions, then trillions, and it currently sits at nearly five quintillion hashes per second, or 4. The reason for the increase in hashrate isn’t just more people participating—the processors used for hashing have also gotten much faster. 15 per day, give or take. Why are graphics card prices skyrocketing?
What does any of this have to do with graphics cards? Here’s where things get a bit convoluted. Bitcoin was released as open source software, and it uses the SHA256 algorithm for hashing. Many of these are worthless, but some of them have modified the software in unique and useful ways.