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For example, the SHA-256 of this term BUTTERFLY (source) is 8c62ace4f9ef8ccd08ca6fb992a8524bb7dbdc0530654bd254c9da07a660949a (HASH). This seemingly random string of letters and numbers has three important properties:

Bitcoin mining involves three variables: the cube, the mining difficulty and a random number. Heres how it all comes together:

Imagine our block consists of the term BUTTERFLY discussed earlier. In reality, the block would contain a listing of recent, unverified transactions, but lets keep it simple. In order for the block to be solved, bitcoin utilizes a simple test: If the HASH result of the block begins with a certain number of zeros, then the cube is considered confirmed.

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For instance, lets say that we've a mining problem of simply two, ie, our HASH should begin with two zeros. .

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The problem: BUTTERFLY will always return the same HASH, and it doesnt begin with two zeros. So what we need is the third factor, a random number (called a NONCE). We carry this number, combine it with BUTTERFLY, and HASH again. If it doesnt begin with two zeros, we change the number and try again, and because changing one small number changes the entire HASH outcome, there is no way to predict the number well need to solve this! .

We repeat this procedure over and over until we find a number that, when combined with BUTTERFLY, provides us a HASH that begins with two zeros. That number is the solution to the block. Here are some attempts:

This arduous procedure of randomly trying to find a number that gives the solution is the thing that makes bitcoin mining such a computationally expensive procedure, and as more miners join the network, the tougher it gets. As of November 2017, a regular home computer working alone, ie, not an application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) and not a part of a cloud mining network, would require 2.7 million years into mine one block. .

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This has led to the rise of ASIC computers built particularly for mining and to an increase in cloud mining.

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CPU mining. In the early days of bitcoin, mining issue was low and not a great deal of miners were competing for cubes and rewards. This made it he has a good point rewarding to utilize your computers own central processing unit (CPU) to mine bitcoin. However, that approach was soon replaced by GPU mining.

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GPU mining. A graphics processing unit (GPU) is a powerful processor whose sole objective is to assist your computers graphics card in rendering 3D graphics. GPUs are not built for executive decisions (like CPUs) however to be somewhat good labourers, hence GPUs are able to execute over 800 link times more instructions in the exact same amount of time as a CPU.

FPGA mining. Next came mining with field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs). These significantly outperformed GPUs and CPUs in the mining process as FPGAs are processors which can be programmed to perform certain instructions and only those instructions (instead of being repurposed for mining, such as GPUs were).

ASIC mining. Comparable to FPGAs, application-specific integrated circuits are processors designed for a particular function, in our case mining bitcoin, and nothing else. ASICs for bitcoin were introduced in 2013 and, as of November 2017, they are the best processors available for mining bitcoin and they outperform FPGAs in electricity consumption. .

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Mining pools. To cancel the problem of mining a block, miners started organising in cloud or pools mining networks. Whenever a miner in one of these pools solves a block, the reward is shared with everyone in the pool in a ratio representative of just how much work you put into the swimming pool (even though you personally never solved the mystery ). .

Cloud mining. Clouds provide prospective miners the ability to purchase mining channels in a remote data centre location. There are many obvious advantages, the most obvious being: no electricity costs, no excess heat and nothing to sell when you decide to hang up your virtual pickaxe.

Once miners get bitcoin, they are given a virtual key to the bitcoin addresses. You can use this electronic key to access and confirm or approve transactions.

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Desktop pockets. Software like Bitcoin Core lets you send and save bitcoin addresses and also connects to the network to monitor transactions.

Online wallets. Bitcoin keys are stored online by exchange programs such as Coinbase or Circle and can be retrieved from anywhere.

Mobile wallets. Programs like Blockchain store and encrypt your own bitcoin keys so that you can make payments using your mobile device.

Paper wallets. Some sites provide paper wallet solutions, generating a piece of paper with two QR codes on it. One code is your public address where you receive bitcoin and the other one is the personal address you can use for spending.

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