ASCI or application-specific integrated circuit machines have arrived in the Bitcoin mining market. The first machine arrived at a miner's home in late January and ever since reports have been trickling in of shipped ASCI machines finding their way into miner's Bitcoin mining rigs.
Since ASCI machines are designed specifically for the task of mining Bitcoin, they are highly effective machines at what they are designed to do. High end ASCI machines have a per second hash rate of over 1 million. A typical CPU running Bitcoin mining software has a per second hash rate of 1.5.
Needless to say the shipment of ASCI machines have been a game changer in the Bitcoin world. CPUs are no longer even supported by Bitcoin mining software because a CPU running 24 hours a day would likely not see a Bitcoin for several years, even if it was mining in a pool.
This trend favors those interested in mining who also happen to have thousands of dollars lying around to be used on expensive hardware, as well as the early adopters of Bitcoin mining who likely have made a hefty profit from their early mining efforts. Those early profits could be rolled into the latest and greatest hardware and rig setup to continue generating Bitcoins well into the future.
Those miner who are running relatively powerful GPUs are being hit the worst by the ASCI development. The difficulty in successfully mining a block of Bitcoin has increased to a level that may make the cost of electricity outweigh the payout a GPU miner will see in Bitcoin from year to year.
All of this speculation is tied heavily to the stability of the price of Bitcoin going forward. If Bitcoin stays around the current 30 usd level then innovation will continue to progress. ASCI in part has contributed to the rally that Bitcoin has seen over the last 2 months. The USD exchange rate for Bitcoin has soared from 10 usd to 30 usd. It is hard to find an investment with that kind of return anywhere on the planet, so it is natural for Bitcoin to be drawing attention in recent days. But will this attention last? And if so will it bring more scrutiny and volatility than stability on the young digital currency? In the long term relative stability is the one trait that Bitcoin must establish if it is to accomplish the original goal of being a viable and competitive currency on a world scale.
So will Bitcoin transcend the current label of speculative instrument? The answer lies in a tangled web of variables that include the broad spectrum of humanity: politics, psychology, finance, fear, freedom, privacy, security… etc. Regardless of the outcome it is sure to be a fascinating show.