James Archer RANTS
BESIDES GIGGLING AT the concept of Dogecoin, I’ve never really been into crypto-currencies. If I’ve ever shopped somewhere that accepted them, I didn’t notice, and the declarations of its most ardent users (bitcoin advocates in particular) that decentralised digital money would righteously smite fiat currency have repeatedly and predictably proven wrong.
Nonetheless, I’ve always been happy for them to exist; if we never looked into new ways of paying for things, you might have purchased this magazine with an offer of timber and spices.
Now, however, a resurgence in GPU-led crypto-coin mining has caused an shortage of graphics cards. As a PC gaming nerd (and someone who produces buying guides for these things), it feels as if the digital currency phenomenon is muscling in on my turf. For the unfamiliar, bitcoins, litecoins and the like can be ‘mined’ by PCs performing the complicated transactional processes that are required by the currency to function; in effect, you lend your hardware to this mass accounting effort, and are rewarded with fractions of coins, with more powerful systems able to crunch the numbers faster and thus earn more frequent payouts. It just so happens that AMD Radeon GPUs are particularly efficient at this, so enthusiastic miners are buying them all up to create mighty liquid-cooled setups with rows of cards. As a result, recent models such as the RX 580, RX 570 and RX 480 are either nigh-impossible to buy new, or being sold secondhand at inflated prices; an eBay search shows some RX 480s going for up to £330, £100 more than a brand-new card cost at launch. To me, this is saddening, and not just because the shortage has messed with some of my review sample sourcing. These cards’ true homes are in gaming PCs, where they can help bring joy and excitement – instead, they’ve all been kidnapped and put to hard labour as part of some get-rich-slow scheme. And not even an imaginary coin with a smiling Shiba Inu on it can cheer me up about that.