Software engineer and tech hobbyist Ken Shirriff has reconfigured an old Apollo guidance computer to mine Bitcoin. These are computers that were used in the space ships that were sent on the missions to the moon.
These machines are very rare, there were only a few of them built, one for each Apollo command module and Apollo Lunar Module. However, there was only one operational unit left in existence, and Sheriff managed to track it down.
In a blog post describing the conversation process, Sheriff explained that it took some work to get the Apollo computer up and running as a Bitcoin mining rig. However, since the computer is so outdated, it would be nearly impossible for it to compete with today’s top of the line cryptocurrency mining equipment.
“Implementing the Bitcoin hash algorithm in assembly code on this 15-bit computer was challenging, but I got it to work. Unfortunately, the computer is so slow that it would take about a million times the age of the universe to successfully mine a Bitcoin block,” Sheriff explained.
“At 10.3 seconds per hash, it would take a billion times the age of the universe to mine a block. Still faster than mining by hand or punch cards,” he noted. For some perspective, a $70 USB stick miner performs 130 billion hashes per second,” he added.
The Apollo computer doesn’t even have a microprocessor and was one of the first computers to use integrated circuits.
“The Apollo Guidance Computer took 5.15 seconds for one SHA-256 hash. Since Bitcoin uses a double-hash, this results in a hash rate of 10.3 seconds per Bitcoin hash. Currently, the Bitcoin network is performing about 65 EH/s (65 quintillion hashes per second). At this difficulty, it would take the AGC 4×10^23 seconds on average to find a block. Since the universe is only 4.3×10^17 seconds old, it would take the AGC about a million times the age of the universe to successfully mine a block,” Sheriff says.
After months of low prices, Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have bounced back, as new blockchain projects are coming into fruition. This week, US President Donald Trump Tweeted unfavourably about the technology.
In a series of Tweets, Trump said, “I am not a fan of Bitcoin and other Cryptocurrencies, which are not money, and whose value is highly volatile and based on thin air. Unregulated Crypto Assets can facilitate unlawful behaviour, including drug trade and other illegal activity….
“…Similarly, Facebook Libra’s ‘virtual currency’ will have little standing or dependability. If Facebook and other companies want to become a bank, they must seek a new Banking Charter and become subject to all Banking Regulations, just like other Banks, both National…
“…and International. We have only one real currency in the USA, and it is stronger than ever, both dependable and reliable. It is by far the most dominant currency anywhere in the World, and it will always stay that way. It is called the United States Dollar!”