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

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

Imagine our cube consists of the word BUTTERFLY discussed previously. In fact, the block could 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 consequence of the block starts with a certain number of zeros, then the cube is considered verified.

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

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The difficulty: BUTTERFLY will always return the same HASH, and it doesnt begin with two zeros. So what we need is your third variable, a random number (called a NONCE). We carry this number, combine it with BUTTERFLY, and HASH again. If it doesnt start with two zeros, we change the number and try again, and since changing one little number changes the whole HASH outcome, there's absolutely no way to forecast the number well need to solve this! .

We repeat this process over and over until we find a number that, when combined with BUTTERFLY, gives us a HASH that starts with two zeros. That number is your 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 creates bitcoin mining such a computationally expensive procedure, and as more miners join the network, the harder it gets. At November 2017, a normal home computer working alone, ie, not an application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) and not a part of a cloud mining network, could take 2.7 million years into mine one block. .

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This has caused the rise of ASIC computers built specifically for mining and also to an increase in cloud mining.

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CPU mining. In the early days of bitcoin, mining difficulty was low and not a lot of miners were competing for cubes and rewards. This made it 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. An graphics processing unit (GPU) is a potent processor whose sole purpose 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 times more instructions in the same amount of time as a CPU.

FPGA mining. Next came mining with field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs). These greatly outperformed GPUs and CPUs in the mining process as FPGAs are processors that can be programmed to execute 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 specific purpose, in our case mining bitcoin, and nothing else. ASICs for bitcoin were introduced in 2013 and, as of November 2017, they're the best processors out there 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 those pools simplifies a cube, the payoff is shared with everyone in the swimming pool in a ratio representative of just how much work you put into the pool (even though you personally never solved the puzzle). .

Cloud mining. Clouds provide potential miners the ability to buy mining rigs in a remote data centre location. There are many obvious advantages, the most obvious being: no electricity costs, no extra heat and nothing to market when you decide to hang your digital pickaxe.

Once miners receive bitcoin, they are given a virtual key to the bitcoin addresses. You can use this digital key to gain access and validate or approve transactions.

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

Online wallets. Bitcoin keys are stored online by exchange platforms like Coinbase or Circle and can be accessed from anywhere.

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

Paper wallets. Some sites offer paper useful content wallet services, generating a piece of paper using two QR codes on it. One code is your public address where you get bitcoin and the other is the private address you can use for spending.

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