Screengrab: Ken Shirrif

This Is What Mining Bitcoin by Hand Looks Like

It's not the most efficient way to mine cryptocurrencies.

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Sep 30 2014, 12:40pm

Screengrab: Ken Shirrif

If you can't get your head around mining bitcoin with increasing amounts of computer power, don't even think about doing it with just brain power.

Software engineer Ken Shirriff tried exactly that, mining the cryptocurrency at a rate of 0.67 hashes per day using just a pencil, paper, and a lot of mental horsepower. He put together a blog post detailing exactly how to compute the algorithm used for mining by hand, which was reposted on Gizmodo, and the whole thing is as mind-boggling as you'd expect.

The video above shows Shirriff manually working out one round of the SHA-256 algorithm (the "secure hashing algorithm" used by Bitcoin), which Shirriff insists is actually "surprisingly simple" and much easier for non-computers to work out than the scrypt-based hashing algorithms used by altcoins including Dogecoin and Litecoin.

Nevertheless, just one round takes him over 16 minutes. A full bitcoin block requires 128 rounds. "In comparison, current Bitcoin mining hardware does several terahashes per second, about a quintillion times faster than my manual hashing," Shirriff explains. "Needless to say, manual Bitcoin mining is not at all practical."