**For anyone else who finds the gifs in the article unbearably obnoxious:**
I was a crazy crypto miner
A true story of how I went all-in mining cryptocurrencies during the first gold rush of Bitcoin in 2013.
Itwas a cold March night in 2013 in the city of Ylöjärvi in Finland. I was a college student with no money for rent, food, bills, or anything really. I was waiting for the clock to turn midnight when the monthly student welfare would be paid to my bank account. When the day officially changed, I withdrew a couple hundred euros from an ATM. But it wasn’t for bills or food. That money was earmarked for gassing up the car and driving to another city in the middle of the night to buy a used graphics card. Getting that card ASAP was my top priority in life.
Driving Fast And Furious by thefastsaga. Retrieved from Giphy
Fast rewind a couple of weeks back, a friend of mine asked me if I had heard of something called Bitcoin. There was supposedly this Internet currency that had been rapidly gaining value, and anyone could mine it on their computer. Bitcoin was trading at about 15 euros a piece and it got me interested enough to read up on it and to figure out how mining works. To mine Bitcoin, you must harness your computer’s processing power in the quest of solving extremely complex mathematical problems.
Bitcoin mining. Retrieved from Reddit
Other miners in the network are doing the same and the Bitcoin protocol automatically rewards the first one to get to the correct answer with Bitcoins. Due to the difficulty of the calculations, every miner in the network is essentially trying to guess the answer. The more guesses your machine can do per second, the more likely you’ll get it right. As more miners join the network, the problems get more difficult and earning coins slows down. Here’s a more in-depth explanation of the process.
After some rough calculations, my computer’s hashing power would have yielded only 0.05 Bitcoins (0.75€) per day, which would not be worthwhile considering the cost of electricity. But there was another cryptocurrency, Litecoin that stole our attention. It was marketed as the “silver for Bitcoin’s gold” with faster transaction times, cheaper price and much faster mining due to it’s lower popularity. There were Cryptocurrency exchanges online enabling you to trade Litecoins for Bitcoins, euros and dollars. Mining Litecoins was far more profitable and my computer was able to eke out almost two Litecoins (5€) in a day. I started thinking about ways to scale the operation up as much as possible!
Bitcoin Moon by Bitrefill. Retrieved from Giphy
The main component used in mining was the computer graphics card. Motherboards, processors and RAM memory did not play an important role at all. As long as your hardware had a PCI-E slot for a graphics card and a power supply capable of running it at full power, you could efficiently mine cryptocurrencies. I used to buy and sell a lot of computer hardware, so I had extra motherboards and other components lying around, but only a few graphics cards.
I whipped up an improvised secondary computer from spare parts and took it as a test to my friend’s student dormitory where the electricity was “free”. Upon returning home, I rounded up all my computer parts and concluded that I could immediately run a total of five graphics cards spread across three computers at home. I just needed more cards, but there was an issue: I was completely broke, with overdue bills and the rent a few weeks late.
Iwas living on student welfare, totalling to about 500 euros per month. I also owned a car which was a luxury I really couldn’t afford. At the end of the month I was always scrambling for money, late on my bills and hoping I could find a way out of it. Mining cryptocurrencies seemed like a real opportunity to finally “make it”. I firmly decided to spend all of my money not on the rent, nor on my overdue bills, but on more graphics cards from nearby online sellers. I now had a total of three cards mining Litecoins day in, day out, yielding about 12€ of profit per day. The income already almost equaled my student welfare and I had no intention to stop expanding!
Next up, my eyes were firmly set on a very specific date: March 4th, 2013. At midnight that day, I would receive my next student welfare payment. I had arranged the pickup for a new card for that night at 1:00 AM, just an hour after the money would land on my account. With my car running on fumes, I drove to a gas station, pulled the money out of an ATM and gassed up my trusty steed for the nightly drive. One more card, check!
I spent the rest of the money next day to buy that fifth card with a cash deal in the city center. I tried to set aside some money for food and bills, but knew very well it wasn’t going to get me even through the rest of the week. Having food to eat was a minuscule goal compared to maxing out my mining specs.
Mining cryptocurrencies requires a lot of power, which equates to a lot of heat. Running my miners at full power caused extreme overheating and I didn’t want to limit their speed. I did what any crypto-crazy miner would have done: I stripped out all the components from the miner cases and laid them on a table, bare, with all wires connected. I shoved the table against my kitchen ventilation window so the components could bask in the chilly air flowing inside.
It looked like a true fire hazard with no cases, cables hanging everywhere and everything exposed. Instead of being able to press the power button of a computer case, I was now turning the computers on and resetting them by short-circuiting the motherboard pins with a screwdriver. But man did they run cool. Even at peak power, the card temperatures were far below the max, making them work for prolonged periods without crashing.