There’s been so much focus on the bumpy landings (crashes) of cryptocurrency in the last year and the amusing stories of cryptocurrency miners who have moved around the world in order to find free electricity in charming small towns with unlimited cheap hydroelectric charge, the unlimited and unmetered juice provided to dorm rooms on college campuses, and Teslas converted into fancy rolling cryptominers sucking up the free juice from charging stations.
While all these amusing hijinks are going on—making it into the human interest segments all over NPR, news programs, and Sunday supplements—there are a lot of people making a lot of money on the DL, the down low.
There’s an axiom that you can either mine for gold or you can sell pickaxes. While less glamorous than discovering a vein of gold, selling wheelbarrows, tents, jeans, and pickaxes can be not not only way less risky but way more profitable, especially when it comes to cryptocurrency. Gold will always be one of the most valuable elements on planet earth. The merchants providing the technology, hardware, software, storage, and data centers are usually being paid in boring-but-stable fiat currency. Miners vs. Merchants.
Until recently, one of the most profitable crypto quartermasters were the makers of super high-end graphics cards. While the top-of-the-line cards from Nvidia and AMD were designed to do the supergenius-level math to render 4K graphics for video games and CAD/CAM rendering applications. Brute force chips. Ironically, brute force, math-crunching, commercial supercomputers also do an amazing job of solving a blockchain hashing algorithm called SHA-256—some really hard math. Without proof of work, no coin; without a commercial grade supercomputer, no proof of work.
According to Ars Technica, the party is over for Nvidia. “Our revenue outlook had anticipated cryptocurrency-specific products declining to approximately $100 million,” said Nvidia CFO Colette Kress. “Actual crypto-specific product revenue was $18 million.”
Data from PC Part Picker
There seems to be a perfect storm: the declining value of Ether, Litecoin—and even Bitcoin—in addition to the glut of Nvidia’s GeForce 1080 cards, lowering prices from more than $800 to less than $600. Until AMD and Nvidia launch a quantum computing video card—or something as market-rocking—gamers might finally be able to afford to buy the best card out there after a year of shortages.