Old Mining Tech May Destroy ASIC Resistance in Most Altcoins
May 20, 2018 by Tyson O’Ham
FPGAs have been a fixture in BTC mining since the early GPU days, but they’re generally regarded as an interesting footnote on the road to ASIC mining. They might be back in a big way, though: a Bitcointalk.org thread surfaced recently, wherein a poster claimed to have FPGA programs capable of mining several ASIC-resistant Proof-of-Work algorithms at a much faster rate than traditional hardware.
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ASIC Resistance Is Meaningless in the FPGA World
ASIC resistance has become a hot-button topic recently, because altcoins, all with comparatively small networks as opposed to BTC, could be made vulnerable to attack if their miners transition to ASICs without enough lead time.
Monero recently went through a period of upheaval and hard-forking because of a commercial ASIC release, and many believe this to be the first of many more to come.
That’s where FPGAs come in.
What’s an FPGA, and Why It Matters
FPGAs, or Field Programmable Gate Arrays, are processors that you can change dynamically, making Asic-resistance techniques like algorithm switching and hard forks ineffective.
These FPGAs aren’t as efficient as purpose-built custom ASICs are, but it’s their flexibility that makes them nearly impossible to stop: all a user has to do is load a new program into their board, and start mining again. Voila.
The bitcointalk.org poster claims to have algorithms ready for Keccak, Tribus, Phi, and Skunkhash, all touted as highly ASIC-resistant, with efficiency increases of between 20x and 500x times more GPU and CPU mining. While some of these algorithms already have ASICs available, FPGAs can be reprogrammed on a whim to mine any of the resistant coins, and most likely, more in the future.
The cheapest FPGA supported is only $480 dollars – the same price as common mining GPUs. When this developer’s software hits the market, it will probably mean 2 things: FPGA shortages and heavy erosion of GPU viability in mining.
It’s a major dynamic to watch out for in the weeks and months ahead.
What’s your take? Do you think the end of GPU mining is nigh, or not so? Let us know what you think in the comments below.
Images via whitefire990 via bitcointalk