What Is an ASIC Bitcoin Miner?

An application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) miner is a device that is designed for the sole purpose of mining—not coal, but rather digital currency. Generally, each ASIC miner is constructed to mine a specific digital currency. So, a Bitcoin ASIC miner can mine only bitcoin. Think of Bitcoin ASICs as specialized Bitcoin mining computers, or “bitcoin generators.”

You might also view ASIC devices as similar to the microprocessor and random access memory (RAM) chips in your computer; only instead of being general integrated circuits as those are, Bitcoin ASIC miners are specific integrated circuits designed solely to maintain the Bitcoin blockchain—a public database that stores digital information. Developing and manufacturing ASICs as mining devices is costly and complex; but because ASICs are built especially for mining cryptocurrency, they do the job faster than less powerful computers.

There are many different brands of Bitcoin miners available, which can range in price from $20 to $5,000 depending on their power and complexity; and you may purchase Bitcoin ASIC miners in numerous places—like Walmart (NYSE: WMT), Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN), and eBay (NASDAQ: EBAY). The Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) Store even has an "easy-to-use" Bitcoin miner that you can download on your computer for free.

Reviewing Bitcoin, Blockchain, and Mining

When we say the words “block” and “chain” in the context of blockchain, we are actually talking about digital information (the “block”) that is stored in a public database (the “chain”). The Bitcoin protocol is built on the blockchain. So, with the launch of Bitcoin in 2009 as the first cryptocurrency, blockchain technology had its first real-world application.

There are no physical "coins" in bitcoin, only balances kept on a public ledger in the cloud, that—along with all bitcoin transactions—is verified by a massive amount of computing power. Bitcoin is backed by millions of ASICs around the world called “miners.” By mining bitcoin, you can earn cryptocurrency without having to put down money for it. It is also the only way to release new bitcoin into circulation.

Although investing in cryptocurrency is painstaking, costly, and only sporadically rewarding, some investors are drawn to it. People buy expensive ASICS and pay for lots of electricity so that they may earn more bitcoin, which may be exchanged for real-world currency.

Understanding ASIC Bitcoin Miners

Originally, Bitcoin’s creator intended for bitcoin to be mined on central processing units (CPUs)—your laptop or desktop computer. However, Bitcoin ASICs surpassed both CPUs and graphics processing units (GPUs) in terms of both their reduced electricity consumption and greater computing capacity. After gaining traction in mid-2013, when other hardware mining devices started hitting their bottlenecks in mining, Bitcoin ASIC miners have retained their lead.

Bitcoin miners perform complex calculations known as hashes, and each hash has a chance of yielding bitcoin. The more hashes you perform, the more chances you have of earning bitcoin. Most people join a mining pool to increase their chances of earning bitcoin. Mining pools pay for high value hashes known as shares.

The default mining pool issues payouts weekly to accounts with at least 5000 Satoshis—the smallest unit of the Bitcoin cryptocurrency. If an account doesn't reach 5000 Satoshis during a week, the balance carries forward (it is never lost).

What is ASIC Bitcoin Mining?

Mining is the process of managing the blockchain. The job of ASIC Bitcoin miners is to review and verify previous bitcoin transactions and create a new block so the information can be added to the blockchain. The mining process involves solving complex mathematical problems using intrinsic hash functions linked to the block that contains the transaction data. Various Bitcoin miners compete intensely with each other to solve a necessary mathematical puzzle.

The first miner to find the solution to the puzzle is able to authorize the transaction (to add bitcoin to the block). Each winner in the Bitcoin-mining lottery receives a reward (a certain amount of bitcoin). The reward includes all of the transaction fees for the transactions in that block, which motivates miners to collect as many transactions into a block as possible to increase their reward.

Key Takeaways

  • ASIC Bitcoin miners are electronic circuits designed for the sole purpose of mining bitcoins.
  • In cryptocurrency, mining is the process of managing the blockchain. 
  • Bitcoin miners review and verify previous bitcoin transactions and create new blocks so that the data can be added to the blockchain.