There are some people who get so hung up on the word ‘Can’ that they never consider the word ‘Should’. One of them has converted an Apollo space mission guidance computer into a Bitcoin mining rig.
The Bitcoin Mining Rig That Already Mooned
Ken Shirriff is a man with a passion, and that passion lies in the restoration of vintage computer hardware. For his latest project, Shirriff got hold of a guidance computer from the Apollo space mission. Then got it working again; the only working example, according to him.
This computer was small enough to install in the actual Apollo craft, in an era when most computers ranged in size from large refrigerator to entire room.
Of course, once you have such a machine up and running, you ought to give it something to do. After all, it’s not as though there are that many lunar landings for it to guide these days.
But what function to give it?… In the words of Shirriff himself:
Trying to mine Bitcoin on this 1960s computer seemed both pointless and anachronistic, so I had to give it a shot.
From ‘A Right Hash’ To ‘Hashing Alright’
Implementing the SHA-256 hashing algorithm into the 15-bit machine was a struggle, although you could probably have guessed that. However, Shirriff succeeded, as can be seen in the video below.
As you would imagine, it was far from the fastest mining machine out there. It took 5.15 seconds for one SHA-256 hash, and as Bitcoin uses a double hash this gives a rate of just under 0.01 hashes per second. At this rate, Shirriff calculates that it would take about a billion times the age of the universe to mine a block.
However it isn’t the slowest Bitcoin mining method he has attempted. Previous projects include mining using an old punch-card computer system, and even mining a block by hand.
For comparison, the punch-card experiment was able to compute a Bitcoin hash in 80 seconds, and the rate using pencil and paper was 0.67 hashes per day.
Clearly, none of this will make Shirriff a bitcoin millionaire. But his dedication to preserving computing technologies of the past should clearly be applauded.
Let’s just hope that he doesn’t convert any more Apollo Guidance Computers into mining rigs though. Or the Cambridge University project to calculate real-time Bitcoin network energy demands may have to recalibrate its worst case efficiency scenario.
Can you build a Bitcoin mining rig by yourself? Let us know in the comments below!
Image via Shutterstock
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