ASIC is an acronym that stands for Application Specific Integrated Circuit. This means it is a Circuit board designed to do something very specific, it doesn’t get much simpler than that. What is that specific thing it’s trying to do? Well, it’s attempting to solve a blockchain problem.
We won’t get into the specifics of how the quote “blockchain problem” works and how to solve it, but there are two things you need to know:
There are many different blockchain problems. A blockchain can choose any problem it wants for it’s proof of work mechanisms. Bitcoin uses SHA-256, and Ethereum uses ETHASH. Each of these problems are essentially just a bunch of math. In short, you’re telling your computer or circuit board to do a bunch of math until it figures something out and wins a reward for trying. If you’re wanting to learn more about these problems check out our Proof of Work video, where we explain with stories how these hashes work and are solved.
Each problem can be optimized. For example, to think about it on a low level, you might find a way to do addition problems really quickly, but if someone presents you with a bunch of multiplication problems, you’ll have to be creative and find a way to optimize all the multiplication problems.
An ASIC is just a circuit board that has been designed to perform a certain hash (which is the technical term for the blockchain problem) as fast as possible and as efficiently as possible. In a similar manner, we design these videos so that you are motivated to subscribe and hit the like button as quickly as possible, which you should do if you haven’t already.
Why is an ASIC better than a GPU?
Currently, many coins are mined using GPUs, which are literally the graphic cards in computers that perform math to display the pixels on your screen in the correct manner. It turns out, just by luck, that these GPUs are also really good at doing math for some of the major cryptocurrency hashes. For example, in the past few years, Ethereum has been quite profitable and because of this – GPU prices have skyrocketed past their original MSRP. To give you a perspective, my GTX 1080 TI that I bought 3 years ago for $800, is selling on Ebay for $900 at the moment.
So going back to our Incredible Hulk example, even though Hulk can try and maybe succeed at growing his garden, he would be a lot better and a lot more efficient if his job was smashing grapes into jam instead. It’s just what he’s good at. If he hired a horticulturist to do his gardening, he might end up with better tasting strawberries, and bright juicy watermelons for him to eat like we eat grapes.
In a similar example to Hulk gardening, many ASICs are WAY more powerful at solving Bitcoin hashes compared to a computer’s GPU solving those hashes. It can still do it, but an ASIC at the same price can perform up to 100x faster with even less electricity usage. You might be asking how? Well the true answer is… we don’t know. There are many computer scientists and engineers who work long hours to figure out how to create, essentially, a circuit board, that can crunch numbers in a specific way in the fastest way possible.
One downfall when it comes to ASICs though, is that they are designed to be specific to one hashing function. So a Innosilicon A10 Pro can only mine ETH using ETHASH, and can’t mine any other coin.
Another two minor downfalls is that they are usually very noisy and hot and require 240 volts. This means you don’t want to stick one in your bedroom because you might not be able to go to sleep, it also means you probably need specialized electrical wiring to power it.
Thanks for watching this shorter video on ASICs, they are pretty basic and there isn’t much to teach about them. We hope you enjoyed it, we really hope you learned something, and most of all we hope to see you in the next video (please subscribe – whispered).