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HAVE YOU NO­TICED A LACK OF GRAPH­ICS CARD AVAIL­ABIL­ITY RE­CENTLY? YOU’RE NOT ALONE. MARK WIL­LIAMS LOOKS AT WHY THE RESUR­GENCE OF GPU MIN­ING HAS CAUSED THE SEC­OND CRYPTO CRI­SIS

PC & Tech Authority - - MOST WANTED -

it­coin. The cur­rency that is as con­fus­ing as it is as­tound­ing. So con­fus­ing in fact that the re­spected fi­nan­cial jour­nal­ist Alan Kohler re­ported on the ABC nightly news as Bit­coin be­ing a com­mod­ity (be­cause work goes into pro­duc­ing it), then the fol­low­ing night com­pletely switched tack and re­ported on it as a cur­rency.

Bit­coin has gone from strength to strength and at the time of writ­ing one Bit­coin is now worth around $3,500. For some­thing you can eec­tively gen­er­ate out of thin air you can see why peo­ple are in­ter­ested in min­ing (gen­er­at­ing) it.

How­ever, these days min­ing Bit­coin is ba­si­cally out of the ques­tion. You see as more Bit­coins (or any crypto cur­rency it seems) are made they pro­gres­sively get harder and harder to gen­er­ate, with the amount of com­pu­ta­tion re­quired in­creas­ing with each con­sec­u­tive “coin” made. In the first crypto cri­sis that oc­curred a year or two ago now, when Bit­coin was re­ally the only cur­rency around, GPU min­ing of Bit­coins was so prof­itable that graph­ics cards, par­tic­u­larly AMD ones, were snapped up by min­ers leav­ing gamers and sys­tem builders with­out stock. But once Bit­coin got so hard to mine by GPU, spe­cially de­signed ASIC min­ers from the likes of Bit­main with their Ant­miner line of prod­ucts were soon ex­ceed­ing GPU pro­duc­tion rates and the graph­ics card mar­ket re­turned to nor­mal as the crypto de­mand van­ished.

Since then Bit­coin has been mined so much that it’s very hard to pro­duce any more of it eas­ily. With the ex­plo­sion in other dig­i­tal cur­ren­cies how­ever, cryp­tocur­rency min­ers are once again hav­ing a field day.

Ethereum is now prob­a­bly the sec­ond big­gest dig­i­tal cur­rency and just so hap­pens to be very eas­ily mine­able cur­rently on GPUs, again on AMD cards in par­tic­u­lar. With one Ethereum hov­er­ing around the $290-mark (up from $10 at the start of the year) min­ers are once again snap­ping up graph­ics cards like they’re potato chips and have eec­tively caused the sec­ond crypto cri­sis in the GPU mar­ket with most AMD and some Nvidia cards now out of stock or in very lim­ited quan­ti­ties.

James from Umart es­ti­mates that it has caused a roughly 20% uptick in card sale val­ues.

It’s so pop­u­lar in fact that it has been es­ti­mated that all the min­ers cur­rently gen­er­at­ing Ethereum are con­sum­ing about 4.2TW of power, more than the con­sump­tion of coun­try of Cyprus!

While the de­mand for graph­ics cards for this task is ex­pected to last sev­eral more months, with some ex­pected changes com­ing to Ethereum it­self and with the ris­ing com­plex­ity of gen­er­at­ing it, the cur­rent feel­ing is that by years end GPUs won’t be so good at min­ing it any­more and could see the mar­ket cool once again.

With so many other dig­i­tal cur­ren­cies now though I wouldn’t be sur­prised if this all hap­pens again Ground­hog Day style but with some other up-and-com­ing cur­rency. Time will tell.

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