In­vest in crypto? I made my own in­stead

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Last year I built my own cryp­tocur­rency fac­tory – in my bed­room. When the soar­ing price of Bit­coin started to be dis­cussed on tele­vi­sion and among my friends in 2017, un­der­stand­ing cryp­tocur­ren­cies be­came a so­cial necessity. Ev­ery­one was talk­ing about it, so I was forced to in­ves­ti­gate just to be able to par­tic­i­pate in the con­ver­sa­tions.

The more I read, the more in­trigued I be­came: I saw that dig­i­tal cur­ren­cies were a plat­form for in­no­va­tion – not just a way to make money but a pos­si­ble re­place­ment for ex­ist­ing cur­ren­cies world­wide. As a 17-year- old at the time, I found the idea hugely ex­cit­ing.

I spent a month last sum­mer get­ting to grips with the dif­fer­ent types of cryp­tocur­rency, such as Bit­coin, Ethereum and Rip­ple, and learn­ing the tech­ni­cal terms. At the be­gin­ning I saw my­self as a po­ten­tial in­vestor and buy­ing, like many oth­ers, into the cur­ren­cies in the hope of mak­ing huge, quick prof­its as the price con­tin­ued to soar. I could even see my Bit­coin prof­its fund­ing my univer­sity course, which is due to be­gin this au­tumn.

So I was ex­cited to get straight into the buy­ing and sell­ing of the cur­rency – un­til I re­alised that a sin­gle Bit­coin al­ready cost $4,000 (£2,980), which was well out of my reach. As I could not af­ford to in­vest other than in a tiny frac­tion of the cur­rency, which seemed un­ap­peal­ing, I turned my at­ten­tion to “min­ing”: mak­ing my own.

I al­ready pos­sessed the mak­ings of a crypto fac­tory in the form of my own per­sonal com­puter. I dis­cov­ered that, when I wasn’t us­ing it for gam­ing, my very ef­fi­cient com­puter was per­fectly ca­pa­ble of min­ing dig­i­tal cur­rency.

How­ever, I de­cided to in­vest in up­grad­ing the PC with a faster graph­ics card, which would al­low it to pro­duce cryp­tocur­rency more quickly. I spent £355 on one of the best graph­ics cards for min­ing on the mar­ket. I then found out that min­ing Bit­coin in­volved con­sum­ing ex­tremely large amounts of power, so I de­cided to in­ves­ti­gate other cryp­tocur­ren­cies that I might be able to pro­duce more ef­fi­ciently.

Brows­ing on­line, I found a video about an al­ter­na­tive cryp­tocur­rency called Zcash. It seemed to have all the po­ten­tial of Bit­coin – ad­vanced “blockchain” technology and se­cu­rity – but was much cheaper to pro­duce. I found some free soft­ware on­line for min­ing Zcash and was ready to go.

Demitrios Achilleos caught the Bit­coin bug last year but lacked the cash to in­vest in it – so he de­cided to dig for gold him­self

The big­gest cost for a crypto miner is elec­tric­ity. You need to leave your com­puter run­ning non-stop if you want to make max­i­mum use of it, but this in­volves not only the cost of the min­ing it­self but also the cost of keep­ing the com­puter cool.

For­tu­nately, at that time I was liv­ing in Trinidad, which ac­cord­ing to my re­search had the sec­ond-cheap­est elec­tric­ity in the world at just five US cents (3.7p) per kWh, com­pared with a typ­i­cal cost of 17.2p per kWh in Bri­tain.

As a re­sult, in Trinidad the elec­tric­ity needed to make one Bit­coin would cost about $1,190 (for com­par­i­son, the mar­ket price of Bit­coin this week was $7,800). To make a unit of Zcash, by con­trast, costs only $208.60, com­pared with a mar­ket price this week of $235.

Bit­coin min­ing ma­chines in Canada, above; Demitrios’s ‘ fac­tory’, be­low

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