You Can Now Mine Bitcoin (Very Slowly) on a Commodore 64

Apr 12, 2021 | Decrypt News | 0 comments


A software developer has written code that lets you mine Bitcoin on a Commodore 64, one of the earliest mass-market computers. The code is accessible on developer file-sharing platform GitHub.

Launched in 1982, the Commodore 64 was a widely successful 8-bit personal computer focused on gaming and creating music. First sold in 1982, it went on to capture the low-end computing market. It has a grand total of 64 kibibytes (one-thousandth of a megabyte) of RAM; today’s computers typically have between 4-32 gigabytes of RAM.

Bitcoin mining involves performing complex computations in the hope of finding a suitable answer before another miner does; the successful miner is rewarded with Bitcoin. Pretty much any computer is capable of running the mining process, which is a matter of crunching hash functions, but today’s miners almost invariably use dedicated ASIC (application-specific integrated circuit) mining hardware to provide the necessary grunt.

Mining Bitcoin on a Commodore 64. Image: Maciej Witkowiak.

The developer behind the Commodore 64 mining code, Maciej Witkowiak, estimates that the vintage computer would produce a hash rate of 0.2 hashes per second. In comparison, a modern-day ASIC miner like the Antminer T19 crunches hashes at a rate of 84 terahashes per second—that’s one trillion hashes per second. So it’s unlikely that the Commodore 64 miner would have a chance at ever mining a Bitcoin block.

Old-school miners

Instead, it’s more of a hobby project. Since any computer can run the Bitcoin mining process, developers have recently taken to experimenting with a variety of vintage hardware. Last month, a YouTuber turned a 1989 Game Boy–Nintendo’s first major portable game console–into a Bitcoin miner (indeed, the C64 code on Github is forked from the Game Boy code).

With a hash rate of around 0.8 hashes per second, its developer estimated that it would take “a couple of quadrillion years” to mine a Bitcoin with a modified Game Boy. “It’s without a doubt the slowest miner I’ve ever heard of. But you have heard of it!” they boasted on Twitter. No longer; with its 0.2 hashes per second rate, the C64 takes that (dubious) crown.

When considering why the miner is so slow, Witkowiak pointed out that it doesn’t handle 32-bit computations very efficiently. These are needed when performing hash functions. Instead, he had a simple recommendation: “Just enjoy the experience.”

And if that doesn’t work, you could always use it to play Pac-Man.

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