25 May 2021 · 4 min read

Evolution of Mining Equipment: From Desktops to Mining Farms

The text below is an advertorial article that was not written by Cryptonews.com journalists.


Long gone are the days when Bitcoin mining was a lucrative hobby for cryptocurrency brainiacs. The days when a simple personal computer was sufficient enough to mine.

Over the years, Bitcoin mining has fortified and today is predominantly executed in custom corporate-owned data centers, using ASICs in the latest (16 nm) technology nodes that aggressively optimize energy efficiency to unparalleled levels. The system has become increasingly vertically integrated, with single companies owning one or more data centers, designing the chips, and maintaining the hardware.

Now, the mining industry is flooded with cutting-edge computing equipment working at scales as large as industry manufacturing units. Let us have a look at how bitcoin mining equipment evolved.

Generations of Mining Equipment

First-generation miners - CPU:

On Jan. 3, 2009, Satoshi Nakamoto mined the first bitcoin block. As the solitary miner on the bitcoin network at the time, Nakamoto didn’t need technoscientific equipment to begin the bitcoin blockchain. He was able to create bitcoin blocks using an average personal computer. The earliest Bitcoin mining hardware was developed by a wide spectrum of enthusiasts from students to tech hobbyists to aspiring entrepreneurs.

Second generation miners - GPU:

In October 2010, Bitcoin mining software for GPUs was released on the web, and it was swiftly optimized and adjusted for use in several open-source endeavors. Incidentally built for gaming applications, GPUs excel at computing simple mathematical operations in parallel, rather than one at a time, to generate thousands of time-sensitive image pixels. These devices can also be re-programmed to compute other mathematical operations such as the ones required to mine new bitcoin.

The innovation of GPU mining made producing bitcoin blocks and earning block rewards on average roughly six times more efficient than CPUs.

Third generation miners- FPGA:

June 2011 brought the first open-source field-programmable gate arrays (FPGA) Bitcoin miner implementations. FPGAs can compute the mathematical operations required to mine bitcoin twice as fast as the highest grade GPU.

The performance bottleneck of SHA-256 was its deep algebra chain. Adding one more pipeline stage in the middle of the algebra chain doubled performance, for example on the Icarus FPGA miner. FPGAs had trouble competing on cost per GH/s with high-volume GPUs that were on more advanced process nodes and sold on retail sites like Newegg.

However, FPGAs were up to 5 times more energy-efficient than GPUs, breaking even on the total cost of ownership (TCO) after a year or two. Also, these devices were labor-intensive to build.

Fourth generation miners - Function ASICs:

In 2012 many teams started designing mining ASICs, such as Butterfly Labs, Avalon Miner, Bitfury, Friedcat, etc. At that time the design quality was not so important, time to market was predominant. Dozens of teams rushed into the market, hashrate increase reached 40% a week. While Canaan Creative was the first bitcoin ASIC manufacturer, others such as Bitmain and MicroBT also came up with new versions of ASIC bitcoin mining devices with increasingly advanced hardware.

These devices, unlike CPUs, GPUs and FPGAs, were designed at their outset to mine bitcoin. This meant that all hardware and software components of these ASIC devices came pre-designed and optimized to compute strictly those calculations necessary to create new bitcoin blocks.

The first ASICs fixed FPGAs weaknesses in power distribution and thermal resistance. The improved thermal design was more important in the ASIC era because the heat density of an ASIC outperformed CPU/GPU/FPGAs and most other chips.

Fifth Generation Miners - Efficiency ASICs:

In 2014 the Bitcoin price crashed, and the era of function ASICs came to an end. Hashrate was high and low-tech ASICs didn’t make sense anymore. Energy efficiency became the top priority.

One of the most noticeable developments in ASIC mining technology since 2013 has been a steady reduction in chip size. The size of ASIC chips started at a size of 130nm in 2013, and has now shrunk considerably to be as small as 7nm in latest hardware models.

Now, to have any chance at winning a block reward one needs to have both efficient mining machines and professional facilities to host them. MineBest, a global company founded in 2017 specializing in cryptographic computing activities, provides professional hosting services not only for the mining of Bitcoin, but Altcoins too.

The Next Evolution in Mining

The mining industry continues to evolve today although trends show that this evolution is slowing down. Since the first Bitcoin ASIC miner, there has not been a new technology to leapfrog mining efficiency gains in the same way GPU mining had for CPU mining or FPGA mining had for GPU mining.

Instead of expanding on the processing power, breakthroughs are being made in supply chain efficiency and economics of resource procurement. MineBest is constantly on the hunt to be on the frontier of all the breakthroughs happening in the mining ecosystem, be it on the technological or procurement/ supply chain front.