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How Developers Are Turning Old Electronics into Bitcoin Mining Rigs

How Developers Like Ken Shirriff Are Making the Most Out of Old Electronics for Bitcoin Mining

Whether you're a talented developer who is new to bitcoin mining or an experienced miner looking to try something new, bitcoin mining on old computers can be a cool way to earn cryptocurrency. Ken Shirriff is one miner who has created some of the coolest.

While it's basically impossible to use old electronics to mine at a rate comparable with modern GPU, CPU, and ASIC mining equipment or to start a highly profitable cryptocurrency mining business solely using older hardware, it's still very interesting to see the various possibilities of mining.

Here are some cool examples of what Shiriff has done to creatively repurpose old electronics for bitcoin mining.

Possibilities of Mining with Old Computers


Ken Shirriff is well-known within the bitcoin mining community for turning old-school computers and gaming systems into mining rigs. Shirriff is a true tech wizard that can even write SHA-256 algorithms using only pencil and paper. In 2017, Shirriff turned a Xerox Alto into a mining rig. This is an amazing feat considering that this computer was released in 1973 and was the first computer to ever have an operating system based on a GUI.

What's so impressive about this project? Shirriff actually coded the hash algorithm using BCPL, a programming language which is now basically obsolete, for the specific purpose of being able to mine crypto using the Xerox Alto. 

Shirriff has also converted older computers like the IBM 1401 mainframe (introduced in 1959) and even old gaming systems like the 1985 Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) to cryptocurrency mining rigs. Although hashing algorithms like SHA-256 use a lot of 32-bit operations, even 8-bit systems like the one used by NES can work, albeit at much lower rates.

Hash Rate Comparison: Old Rigs vs. New Rigs

While skilled developers have proven that it is possible to mine cryptocurrency using ultra-old hardware, this shouldn't be considered a good mining strategy. However, if you are a technical wizard who enjoy challenging projects and retro electronics, this can be a cool hobby to start. If you're only focused on mining as a business, you should consider newer rigs first.

Regardless of whether you decide to pick up mining as a hobby or not, the results of Shirriff's work are fascinating, to say the least. From his efforts, we can see that Moore's Law is actually an understatement on the ability of computers chips to improve over time.

What's the difference in computing power between retrofitted rigs and new mining gear? Although Shirriff admits that it might be possible to improve on the mining capabilities of his own retrofitted mining rigs, there is no denying that there is a tremendously large gap in performance compared to newer rigs. For instance, Xerox Alto only reaches 1.5 hashes per second. Meanwhile, ASIC mining rigs can reach trillions of hashes per second, making them the clear front-runner for BTC mining.

Even with the rise of anti-ASIC Proof-of-Work consensus algorithms, the highest performing GPU graphics cards like the MSI GeForce GTX 1080 Ti GAMING X 11G Graphics Card can help miners reach over 31 million hashes per second.

Taking Mining Creativity to the Next Level

While there isn't a precise instruction guide for modifying old-school computers and gaming systems for bitcoin mining, tech-savvy cryptocurrency enthusiasts can definitely give this type of mining a try.

Thanks to Ken Shirriff's ingenuity, the sky is truly the limit for talented developers who have the time, energy, and passion to create unique mining rigs.


This article by Delton Rhodes was originally published at 

About the Author


Delton Rhodes

I enjoy researching new, innovative, and interesting blockchain/crypto projects that have the potential to impact the world. Whenever I'm not writing, I'm usually playing sports or producing music.
Published Tuesday, April 24, 2018 9:44 AM by David Marshall
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