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

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

Imagine our cube consists of the word BUTTERFLY discussed previously. In reality, the block would contain a list of recent, unverified transactions, but lets keep it simple. In order for the block to be solved, bitcoin uses a simple test: If the HASH result of the block starts with a certain number of zeros, then the block is considered verified.

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

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The problem: BUTTERFLY will return the exact same HASH, and it doesnt start with two zeros. So what we need is your third variable, a random number (known as a NONCE). We take this number, combine it with BUTTERFLY, and HASH again. If it doesnt begin with two zeros, we change the number and try again, and since changing one small number changes the entire HASH result, there is no method to predict the number well need to address this! .

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

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 harder it gets. At 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 take 2.7 million years to mine one block. .

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This has caused the growth of ASIC computers constructed particularly 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 great deal of miners were competing for cubes and rewards. This made it worthwhile to use 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 help your computers graphics card in rendering 3D graphics. GPUs are not built for executive decisions (like CPUs) however to be very great labourers, hence GPUs can execute over view 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, like GPUs were).

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

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

Cloud mining. Clouds offer prospective miners the ability to purchase mining rigs in a remote data centre location. There are many obvious advantages, the most obvious beingno energy costs, no extra heat and nothing to market when you opt to hang your virtual pickaxe.

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

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Desktop wallets. Software like Bitcoin Core lets you send and store bitcoin addresses and connects to the network to track transactions.

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

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

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

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