What’s really interesting about this brand-new currency is that it’s mined through good old-fashioned hard work—by your PC though, not you. You simply run a program on your computer and eventually a virtual coin will appear. The more powerful your setup, the faster the coins will arrive, theoretically at least. It’s very similar to the SETI@home and Folding@home programs, in that it uses spare computing cycles to help churn through complicated equations, but this time the equations result in a payday for the person willing to devote the resources necessary to acquire them. Of course, it’s not quite that simple, and there are pitfalls and caveats, as always, so follow along while we take you on a brief tour of this brave new frontier. And if you become a virtual millionaire down the road, we want a finder’s fee.
What is BITCOIN?
Bitcoin is a decentralized virtual currency that exists solely online. You generate bitcoins with your computer, stuff bitcoins into a virtual wallet, trade them with others, and eventually cash out if you want. Since there is no central authority or government agency providing oversight, users are allowed to semi-anonymously transfer money to one another, making it similar to any other peer-to-peer transaction, except this time, instead of swapping torrents, you’re swapping virtual cash. This lack of oversight is one of the key benefits, and downsides, to Bitcoin at this time, making it the latest frontier in the battle over how much freedom should exist in the online world. This state of anarchy has also made Bitcoin quite intriguing for people who have a lot of spare GPU cycles, which is a wide swath of the Maximum PC readership. But before you fire up your GPUs and quit your day job, let’s examine the basics of Bitcoin so you can decide if it’s something you even want to bother with, because—spoiler alert—it’s not for everybody.