back to article Chap mines Bitcoin with PUNCH CARDS and ancient mainframe

Vintage hardware enthusiast Ken Shirriff has shown that a model 1401 mainframe, which IBM announced in 1959, can mine Bitcoin. If, that is, your definition of mining includes “chugging away at the problem until pretty close to the heat-death of the universe.” Ken Shirriff used the Model 1401 housed at California's Computer …

  1. Shadow Systems

    How long would it take to play Crisis?

    I'll get my coat. =-)p

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    All that effort just to have your Bitcoin exchange merchant go bust just before the heat-death of the universe and nick your US$6000.

    Fine work though.

  3. Rafael 1


    Why not?

    Mr. Shirriff, I salute you.

  4. Your alien overlord - fear me

    $6000 worth of Bitcoins at todays prices - but what will they be worth in 5x10^14 years?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Nothing. Nor will dollars be worth anything. In 10^14 years I expect that entropy will be getting to be a real problem, so that energy you wasted on the calculations would be worth many orders of magnitude more than the entire wealth of planet Earth back here in 2015.

  5. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

    Well. Makes about as much sense as anything else to do with bitcoin.

  6. Queeg

    Oh God!

    Nostalia moment.

    I wrote my first code on that beast.

    Ah,the times they are a changing.

  7. elDog

    Actually, I first thought about something like bitcoin back in 1965

    Whilst waiting 24 hours to get the dreaded "COMMA EXPECTED IN DO" after passing my meager stack of 12x80 cards to the nasties on the other side of the counter.

    My idea was more along the lines of "how would it work if a lot of random monkeys punched these cards and submitted them thousands of time an hour?"

    I'd probably be filthy if not rich by now thanks to those monkeys.

    Not sure what that has to do with artificial coinage, but I'm expecting my payoff will be better than yours.

  8. x 7

    Did he feel bored one day?

    I can't see any other reason for this

    1. Captain DaFt

      "I can't see any other reason for this"

      Because he could, and it wasn't illegal, immoral, or frighten the horses in the streets.

      All the incentive needed.

      1. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        There's some nice irony in there considering the de facto use cases for bitcoin.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      You do things "not because they are easy, but because they are hard" to quote JFK. Millennials can be satisfied with Angry Birds, and that's sad.

      I cut my programming teeth on a 1401. Our programming class was allowed to run programs overnight on the School Board's machine. A friend and I wrote a program to calculate pi to 1000 decimal places by filling in a 1000 character word (Autocoder, the 1401's assembly language had variable length words). It ran for 14 hours before we were kicked off with no result. A damn slow but still magnificent machine.

      1. DropBear

        "not because they are easy, but because they are hard"

        Oh my, get carried away by sound bites much? Doing things because they are hard is of zero interest to people who have no burning desire to prove anything to anyone. As much as I admire the actual achievement, I can't help but wonder whether said gentleman would have been equally eager to conquer space if the "commies" weren't dead set to get there first...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward


          thanks the "commies", then!

      2. Trixr


        I am not a millennial and yet I am still a lazy arse. Kudos to this guy for taking his hobby to the extreme, but let's not pretend that laziness (or lack of interest in certain arcane achievements - I happen to think this one is cool... climbing Mt Everest these days, meh) is a feature of any one generation.

    3. skeptical i
      Thumb Up

      Why does one climb a mountain?

      Hi, x 7: Because it's there.

      Pro'ly not how I'd spend my free time, but I think it's wicked cool that Mr. Shirriff figured this out. Thumb way up.

      1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

        Re: Why does one climb a mountain?

        And indeed, now the calculation is running, he has a *lot* of free time in which to pontificate on the expected result... this is the Earth Mk II, right? There's a mouse on the table...

    4. Paul Kinsler

      Re: Did he feel bored one day?

      Nah. If he'd been bored, he'd have tried it using an abacus :-)

    5. Elmer Phud


      "I can't see any other reason for this"

      'Cos we is curious monkeys is why (Jeez, next 'why do we play games?)

      1. Otto is a bear.

        Re: Duh!


        Have hobbies, read novels, watch sport in the pouring rain on a cold night, buy impracticable motor cars, and the list is endless.

        Mainly because it makes us happy and feel like we've achieved something.

        1. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

          Re: Duh!

          Is an impracticable car one that can't even be built?

    6. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Numerous studies have shown the benefits of mental exercise, for those of us who think.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    An utterly useless excercise... and yet utterly brilliant :)

  10. Solly

    Till the sun explodes...

    Isn't the sun exploding right now?

    1. Rich 11

      Re: Till the sun explodes...

      Yes, but the explosion's current expansion rate is far too slow to be much fun.

  11. Graham Marsden

    That's nothing...

    ... there are people out there who have figured out that it would be possible to mine Bitcoins using abacuses!

    (Ok, it would take the lifetime of a few universes, but that's a minor issue...)

    1. Rich 11

      Re: That's nothing...

      But if each instance of the operator across 10^500 universes were to have a go...

      Yay, quantum abacus!

    2. Captain DaFt

      Re: That's nothing...

      For extra credit; figure out how to mine bitcoins with I Ching! :)

  12. wolfetone Silver badge

    Inspired, I'm going to get my IBM PC-XT 286 machine and see how long that will take.

    I can't wait for it to make me millions :)

  13. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    Next challenge

    So, who's going to prove you can mine Bitcoins on an abacus ?

    1. Swarthy

      Re: Next challenge

      Abacus - Bah! Too much human interaction.

      Maybe Babbage's Difference Engine or perhaps a variant of the antikythera mechanism.

      1. Allan George Dyer

        Re: Next challenge

        No, no, no... you can't do that with the antikythera mechanism, but it will tell you when high tide will be and how soon to plant your wheat on the day the 1401 finishes*.

        * Warning: results may be inaccurate if the optional "Sun explosion and Heat Death of the Universe" module has not been installed.

  14. Unicornpiss


    If you could make sure the machine was reliable and place it in some sort of field where time passes millions of times faster, it would be feasible. Of course there would be better choices for your computing machine in this case...

  15. Old Handle

    But just think how rich he'd be if he started mining bitcoin on that machine when it was brand new?

  16. herman Silver badge

    Ach, these young uns. Just do it by hand on paper. Like a real computer used to do.

    1. Shadow Systems


      Paper? BAH! Danged uppity WhipperSnappers & their newfangled inventions! Back in MY day we had to do all our computations using sticks for the 1's & rocks for the 0's, and we were too poor to afford the sticks!

      *Shakes a palsied fist*

      Now get off my laaaaawn!


  17. Joseph Eoff


    "The electricity would cost 1^18"

    Well, I gues with a number that large it doesn't matter if you measure the cost in dollars, apples, or pigs feet.

  18. Mike 16

    Keeping it running

    Clearly, the first order of business is to make the restoration and maintenance crew immortal.

    And crank up a fab line for Ge bipolar transistors, as NOS will surely run out in less than a century.

  19. Jonski

    5x10^14 years eh?

    "The first ten million years were the worst, and the second ten million years, they were the worst too. The third ten million I didn't enjoy at all. After that I went into a bit of a decline." - Marvin

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