History of mining part 3: The Short Age of FPGA

The next milestone in the history of mining. If you missed previous materials, make sure to read the first and second parts. And then – enjoy the next chapter with Minerall.io.

From the beginning of the farm boom on video cards, miners have been looking for an opportunity to resolve the issue of high energy consumption. One of the most obvious choices were FPGA chips. These chips were much more efficient, but not as versatile. Among the advantages of FPGA:

  • a possibility of several parallel chips on one board;
  • reduced power and cooling requirements;
  • compactness and stability compared to video cards;
  • economical power consumption.

Despite these advantages, FPGA-farms did not become a massive solution. However, thanks to the experiments, the creators of ASIC miners in the future made a new step in the history of mining.

The most famous manufacturer of equipment among FPGA-miners have become two companies: KnC Miner from Sweden and Butterfly Labs from the USA. Facility KnC Mars produced power of 6 Gh/s. Butterfly Labs worked with two devices: BitForce SHA256 Single with 832 Mx/s hash rate and Mini Rig with 25 Gx/s hash rate.

Both companies created potent equipment with minimum power consumption: 20 W per 1 Gh/s. It was ten times less than on video cards. But prices bite: the cost of Mars was $ 6,000, and Mini Rig – $ 15,000. It is unknown how many devices are released total.

Too much cost didn’t allow FPGA miners to enter the big arena, but they still have a strong fan base.

New Era: ASIC

Application Specific Integrated Circuit performs the only task for which they were created. The productivity of ASIC devices is 10–20 times greater than that of wide-profile processors. However, these chips have a “dark side” – prototypes cost a lot, and the creator needs to develop the software and all the hardware independently.

The first creators of ASIC were ASICminer and Avalon (China) and Butterfly Labs (USA).

This chapter ends here. See you next Friday in our retrospective!