First-time poster here, don’t bully me, apologies for the potentially atrocious formatting :) TL;DR at the end
So in the wake of Bitcoin’s explosive rise in value and media attention, I’ve been encouraged by others to share my experience over the past few years as a miner. Here's my story (it's kinda long, you've been warned)
It all started almost three years ago in the beginning of 2015 when Bitcoin flew under my radar. Looking into it, I admittedly wasn’t drawn in because of the decentralisation or the anonymous payments, I was hooked on the idea that anyone could get their hands on some just by running a program and leaving it to do its own thing. I know, how shallow of me. But the idea of making even a bit of money without ‘any work’ was convincing enough for 11-year-old me to do more digging into the matter.
To my disappointment, I soon found out that the era of mining Bitcoins with a PC’s CPU or GPU was long obsolete and instead it was all ASICs at that point.
So that summer, for my twelfth birthday, I got a little ASIC machine for €60, an Antminer U3
. This little thing took up less space than a graphics card but could mine at 60 GH/s. Because, at the time, I didn’t have a controller device that could be kept up and running all day long so it could run the program that mined Bitcoin using the U3, I went ahead and got a Raspberry Pi. After setting up the Pi and installing all the necessary stuff (took an awfully long time), I connected it to AntPool and plugged the U3 in. Two days past and the mining pool sent the first Bitcoin I ever received to my wallet (I was using Blockchain.info). It was just 30 cents worth of BTC but I felt a bit of a rush because I was earning a bit of money through this completely new thing and the idea of that was thrilling.
Let’s back up for a second. I just used the term ‘earning’ as if I was profiting, and naive me 2 years ago was no different. In reality, I was at first oblivious to the fact that I was most likely LOSING money overall because of how much energy that little sucker was taking in. But, I was comforted thinking that using that machine was just a practical way of learning about this modern currency and that the loss of several cents’ worth of energy was acceptable in the name of education and learning.
Fast forward ten months to the wonderful summer of 2016. I had recently turned 13 and the Antminer U3 had been running on and off throughout. Various pauses and breaks in mining would be observed, as I had to manually get everything up and running after frequent breaks in the Internet connection. You’d expect my newly-turned-teenage brain to lose interest in Bitcoin as it does with many other gimmicks, but – even surprising myself – I miraculously didn’t. Good thing I maintained interest thinking about it now, not so good at the time for my parents. Why do I say this? I felt like it was time to get a little upgrade in my hardware.
Getting an upgrade
Days passed with me comparing every ASIC miner I could at that price point. It was then I set my eyes upon the Antminer S7 (same folks who did my U3, nice). I had put it up against a plethora of other miners and I figured the S7 was my best bet; the thing costs only about 10 times that of my U3 but could run at 4.73 TH/s, almost 80 times as powerful. The only problem being its power consumption was at 1300 watts, which would put a massive dent in the electricity bill and eliminate any profit I would make. Fortunately, I had a secret weapon up my sleeve – or rather my mum did. She had rented out an office outside our apartment where she would keep files and paperwork. The office’s electricity bill was a flat rate as far as I’m aware and it ended up being my saving grace because it virtually got rid of the “oh no I’m actually going to be losing money because of how much electricity I’m eating up” factor, making this whole hardware upgrade viable.
After convincing my parents, they finally agreed to shell out the requested amount, with the initial investment being paid back with time. I went to a local Bitcoin vendor and purchased 1 BTC for about $665 in cash (sigh
yes, I know. $665 dollars). Shortly after, I used about 0.9 BTC to purchase the Antminer S7 and a 1600W power supply for a grand total of $600. The products would be made and shipped from China so I was definitely in for a wait.
A month passes and the package arrives at last. I connected all the wires from the power supply into the S7 and – with great anticipation – I plugged it into the wall to start its first ever run. And what do you know? An extremely loud and high-pitched whirring sound blasted out from the fans on both the power supply as well as the S7. After killing the thing, I questioned my choices. I couldn’t dare put that thing anywhere near my mum’s office in the event it drive everyone in the building absolutely nuts. I was at a loss. However, I soon recovered from my temporarily debilitated state and got working on a solution.
The first idea that came to my mind: change the fans. The stocks fans were by Evercool and spun at around 3000 RPM. The power supply used a small, robust fan that looked like a cube that must’ve spun at extremely high speeds judging by how high the sound it produced was. I got my parents to give me some more funding so I could acquire the replacement fans and I did. Bust. After installation and testing, none of the fans would work. I managed to configure the S7 to connect to my Antpool account and the machine would manage mining for several minutes running at peak performance but ultimately be automatically cut off because of how hot the machine was getting (I’m talking about 80 degrees Celsius kinda hot in that thing). The fans got refunded and I was back to the drawing board.
After combing through some forum posts and videos, I came across this
video and a forum post in which people have their mining rigs placed inside a ventilated, muffled cabinet. Undertaking a project like this would be time-consuming and risky but I had no better ideas so I decided to go through with the idea anyway.
Firstly, I sought out a cabinet with suitable dimensions. I managed to get just what I needed at a second-hand IKEA shop. Great. Secondly, I went ahead and acquired some sound-absorbing acoustic foam from a local provider. Fantastic. Finally I had to get a ventilation system going within the cabinet, otherwise, all the hot air would roast the machine alive in there in a bloody mess. With the help of my dad, we found a pair cabinet fans on the Internet that were close to silent but could circulate the air well enough.
Eventually, all the materials came and, with the help of my parents, put everything together. The process took quite long time and we had a couple hiccups along the way, but we got it done and it came out pretty nice.
The moment of truth came and, to my relief, it ran so much quieter than without the cabinet. It was nowhere near silent but it reduced the noise a great deal. Soon after, I got the thing into the office and set everything up from there. Unfortunately, I was forced to underclock it because you could still hear the machine’s whining from outside the thin office door. Gunning the hashrate down about 25% to 3.7TH/s, I could lower the fan speed without risking the machine burning up. Sure, I wasn’t getting the full potential of the machine but I didn’t complain because electricity was not an issue there and it was still a whole lot better than my U3. With it up and running, I could leave it there, periodically checking to see if it was mining on Antpool.
In the months that followed, I was getting a solid $2.5 worth of BTC on daily basis. Half a year later, May of 2017, I had accumulated a satisfactory $600. I thought, “At this rate, I’d be able to pay my parents’ investment back in a few months” (the total investment came close to $900). Bitcoin had risen to over $1500 so I was already over the moon at that point because of how well everything was going. Little did I know…
I hit 0.5 BTC midway through September this year. The price of BTC had dropped after a sudden rise to $5000, but I couldn’t have asked for more. Although I possessed only half the amount of BTC I paid for the machine, its value was over twice that of the initial investment. I thought BTC would level off at around $4000 but nope.
In the month of October, the price skyrocketed. Since September, I had only mined 0.017 BTC but the value was already over $3000. It was just a matter of selling it, but I decided to hodl. Good thing I did.
As of November 5, I have approximately 0.52 BTC mined in total from my S7, valued at $4000. If I were to sell it right now, I’d have a profit of over $3100. And as for my miner, it’s churning out 0.0006 BTC daily, sounds like nothing but it’s still the equivalent of $5 today and I couldn’t be happier, at least with the miner and Bitcoin.
You remember that $665 for 1 BTC that I mentioned earlier? In hindsight, it would’ve been such a better idea to just keep that one Bitcoin and not do anything with it until today (in the interest of making much more money), as I’d theoretically have upwards of $7000. The idea of that still haunts me sometimes if I dwell on it too long but knowing that I’m in possession of an already hefty amount, the pain of it had numbed slightly. It’s not all doom and gloom for me from the exponential increase in Bitcoin’s value, however. Those first $0.3 payments from my humble little U3 all those years ago now are now the equivalent of over $6 today!
Bitcoin and everything it encompasses has been and still is a journey of discovery and an adventure. Looking back, starting with a modest €60 Antminer U3 to having a sum of Bitcoin equivalent to two extremely high-end gaming rigs (first thing I could think of as a comparison, sorry) has been something I can’t really describe. Through the course of the past few years, I’ve learned more about technology, I’ve unexpectedly gotten insight into economics and business and – of course – I’ve made a lot of money (if I decide to stop hodling that is).
Also, props to my parents for keeping an open mind throughout, I know some parents would be horrified at their kids being involved in something that has been used in some less-than-savoury ways and it's great knowing mine have been supportive all the way.
TL;DR got into Bitcoin mining 3 years ago at age 11 with an Antminer U3 that ran at 60 GH/s, got an Antminer S7 (4.73TH/s) and built a sound-muffling, ventilated cabinet for it. Am sat here today with $3000 profit if I decide to sell right now.
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