Gaming graphics cards are hard to come by these days, and the reason is crypto mining. If you are not too sure what crypto mining is, check out this article for a basic vocab lesson, and an overview of how crypto miners have made upgrading your gaming rig too expensive.
Where have all the graphics cards gone?
Or What the heck is cryptocurrency?
Gaming cards are the best tool for the high processing rigs of the crypto miner. But what is cryptocurrency mining? The general public may have heard the terms “cryptocurrency,” “mining,” “blockchain,” and “Bitcoin” and for most people, those words equate to “some kind of digital asset that doesn’t have real value.” In a recent survey, more than half of Americans said that they don’t invest in crypto because they find it too difficult to understand. So, here we go.
Cryptocurrency is a means for exchanging digital information. Simple as that. This information exchange can be used in order to purchase goods and services but does not rely on a central bank for value, security, or processing. Instead, cryptocurrency is backed by the code that runs it.
Cryptography is literally the art of writing or solving code, and it is the gold standard that makes cryptocurrency worth anything. The code is made up of complex mathematics, which allows users to send their token (piece of code) to another user, who then decodes that token in order to process the transaction. That transaction is then stored on an innovative bookkeeping system, the blockchain.
The blockchain is a public ledger of transactions. The system requires a network of users validate each transaction recorded on that ledger. This validation is called mining. Before a transaction can be logged on the public ledger, the blockchain, they are validated by the network users.
Miners receive transaction data in the form of cryptographic puzzles (complicated math problems) and then race to solve the problem. The first miner to solve the problem announces the solution to the network and is rewarded with some amount of crypto coin (created at the moment of solution). The network of miners double checks the solution that the first miner found and, if the majority agree, the transaction data is stored on the blockchain as a verified transaction.
The system of verification incentivizes security and accuracy and grows the number of tokens in existence. It can be rewarding for miners, as it is beneficial to traders, but thanks to the race-to-solve, or technically Proof of Work, the method of verification, mining requires a lot of processing power.
So… where have all the graphics cards gone?
Now that we are caught up on that, we can talk about gaming GPUs and why they are the gold standard for miners. Gaming graphics cards are created for high-end performance.
Gamers are the most likely group of people to be affected because they are building their own rigs for gaming. Designers, on the other hand, may invest in a machine optimized for what they do, because there will be a return on investment. Gamers, though, are doing this for fun, and building your own rig (used to be) cheaper than buying an optimized one.
Additionally, building their own systems allowed gamers to pick and choose features, like cool colored internal lights, clear cases, extra storage, different ports, etc. All good things for the recreational computer junkie, but not essential. The GPU is the essential part, and that part is no longer affordable for the average gamer.
Gamers are starting to spend their money on the optimized machines that are put out by computer manufacturers. Computer manufacturers can generally get their graphics cards direct, so they don’t suffer the same kind of price inflation that we are seeing in retail outlets.
Crypto mining is not the poster child for graphics card manufacturers. Miners are looking to do a very specific thing, that will likely not last forever. Mining for Bitcoin is a bubble, there is only 20% of the initial coin offering left to mine for.