You may have heard of Bitcoin, the cryptocurrency which made everyone the world over go crazy in finding ways to ‘mine’ it.
Today, Ethereum joins it.
Bitcoin has even become an accepted form of currency for some stores online and off, and there are even ATMs around the world where you can withdraw and deposit them like you would your local currency.
(Singapore has one of these ATMs in case you were wondering, and it’s located in Chinatown.)
The Rise Of The Altcoin Cryptocurrency
Bitcoin though was something out of 2014, and its value has been diluted, no thanks to massive mining farms that have sprung up in China.
In the year that Bitcoin lost its value, another cryptocurrency has emerged to become an ‘alternate coin’.
Created by Bitcoin programmer Vitalik Buterin in 2014, Ethereum has emerged as the one responsible for the recent cryptocurrency mining rush. Like Bitcoin, the premise is simple – as long as your gains outweighs your electricity and equipment costs, you would have turned a profit.
The end goal is to fill up your ‘wallet’ with Ether, the product of Ethereum mining. To get it, you will need to first get a ‘mine’ of your own that you will need to put together with off-the-shelf PC components.
And because of this, it has caused a certain PC component to go missing in-stores – graphics cards, and in particular, the mid-range consumer graphics cards like the AMD RX470 and Nvidia Geforce GTX 1060.
Why graphics cards?
Simple – compared to the CPU in a computer, a graphics card is able complete a ‘blockchain’ that gives you Ether up to a few hundred times faster, and thus represents a better price to performance value.
While the Singapore market has been spared a price hike, unlike in the US where some products has even doubled in price, we still face the same supply shortages as everyone else in the world.
A Graphics Card Just For Mining
And you know the supply chain is suffering when the manufacturers themselves are stepping in.
Just yesterday, graphics card manufacturer Asus have, for the first time ever, released product SKUs solely aimed at the mining community.
Available for miners soon are the RX470 and P106 MINING that is stripped of features traditionally found on gaming graphics cards.
Fellow manufacturer Sapphire has also thrown their own line of Mining cards into the mix, all of which are based on AMD, with several variants of the RX 470 and a single RX 560.
What these cards have in common is their raw computing power from the graphics processing unit that is sought after by miners.
Ethereum Is Also Very Volatile
As with any cryptocurrency, the value of Ethereum can just as easily crash on a whim despite its meteoric rise.
Case in point – just this past Monday, someone posted on popular internet forum 4chan claiming that Ethereum creator Vitalik Buterin had died in a car crash.
So What Can You Do With Ether?
If you are the common man – nothing at the moment.
It has yet to gain the prominence (and notoriety) of Bitcoin for use in the real world.
At the moment, only programmers and developers familiar with creating apps based on the very same Ethereum blockchains are benefiting the most.
Ps. blockchain just happens to be the latest buzzword to come out of Silicon Valley, and it’s quickly entering mainstream applications, so you know people are serious
Everyone else though are just mining it because they can, hoping that it will be their next windfall, should Ethereum as a cryptocurrency be widely accepted.
This Will Last A While
The thing about the cryptocurrency mining craze is that it will last for some time, usually 2 to 3 years.
Coupled with the fact that Ethereum is still recovering its value despite that sharp drop, those looking to mine round the clock will continue, if not, expand their operations.
With the move by Asus and Sapphire thrown into the mix, they have unwittingly given these miners more tools for their mining efforts. If anything, they will now snap up both the consumer gaming graphics cards and those built specially for mining.
If you are looking to build a decent mid-range gaming PC, tough luck for you, because the graphics cards snapped up by the miners represent the sweet spot for price to performance for gaming as well.
To look on the bright side, you now have an excuse to splurge on a GTX 1070 or 1080!