The life of a cryptocurrency miner is fast and furious, especially if that person is mining Bitcoin, the most popular digital currency in existence. Consider that it was just two months when Bitcoin hit the $3,000 mark for the first time since it was introduced in 2009. Now just eight weeks later it is trading at around $4,300, hitting a new all-time high after activating a plan to speed up transaction times.
Without getting into the somewhat complicated nitty-gritty details of cryptocurrency and the mining process, the relevant bit of info here is that Bitcoin recently split into two directions, as some users sought to shorten the time it takes to process a Bitcoin transaction and lift the cap on the amount of data processed by its blockchain. Those users and developers split and created Bitcoin Cash, which is basically a clone of Bitcoin. The other protocol, called Segregated Witness (SegWit), locked in new rules to help the digital currency continue to grow.
The rift in the Bitcoin community and subsequent spin-off to Bitcoin Cash could have adversely affected Bitcoin's valuation, especially since digital currencies are so volatile all on their own. But instead of a decline in Bitcoin's value, it has been on an upward swing to new heights and shows no signs of slowing down. Where it goes from here is anyone's guess, and it will be just that—a guess.
"Up until now a lot of people didn’t really believe Bitcoin could go any higher until the scaling issue is resolved," said Arthur Hayes, Hong Kong-based founder of Bitcoin exchange BitMEX. "With this actually being implemented on protocol, theoretically the amount of transactions that can be processed at a reasonable speed is going to be much higher, so a lot of people are very bullish about Bitcoin now."
This is bringing more attention to cryptocurrency. Luckily for people who play games on computers, Bitcoin is best mined with ASIC hardware these days, as opposed to graphics cards. However, a competing cryptocurrency called Ethereum has also grown in popularity in recent months, and it is bested mined with the same graphics cards that are popularly used for gaming. That has caused a shortage of certain model graphics cards, along with a price hike by third-party sellers.
Since some Ethereum miners cash out their digital currency and then invest in Bitcoin, it will be interesting to see if Bitcoin's continued rise ends up affecting these side markets.