Crypto Hardware Giant Bitmain to Release First Zcash ASIC Miner

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Equihash, the Proof-of-Work (PoW) mining algorithm used by Zcash and a variety of other cryptocurrencies, is about to get a lot less equitable.

On Wednesday, mining hardware manufacturer Bitmain revealed that it had developed the first Application Specific Integrated Circuit (ASIC) miner capable of mining on Equihash-secured networks.

Bitmain’s Zcash ASIC miner — the Antminer Z9 Mini — has an advertised hashrate of 10k Sol/s and is scheduled to begin shipping in late June.

However, it’s likely that this new era for the previously ASIC-resistant mining algorithm has already begun, because most people believe that Bitmain privately begins using its new ASICs months before it announces them to the general public.

Critics of ASICs argue that the development of these miners centralizes hashpower, particularly since Bitmain does not currently have a sizable competitor in this nascent market.

Consequently, Zcash adopted Equihash to stave off the development of Zcash ASIC miners, and the cryptocurrency has heretofore been mined primarily using hardware powered by general purpose GPU chips, which are widely used among PC gamers.

Bitmain has methodically cracked previously ASIC-resistant mining algorithms in recent months, unveiling miners for the Ethash, Cryptonight, and Blake(2b) algorithms.

Monero, the most prominent Cryptonight coin, recently altered its instance of the mining algorithm so that Bitmain’s Cryptonight ASIC would not be compatible with its network, and Ethereum — which is secured by Ethash — has debated adopting similar measures.

So far, at least one Equihash coin — Bitcoin Gold — has stated that it will activate a hard fork to maintain ASIC resistance once Bitmain begins shipping its Equihash ASIC miners.

Just hours before Bitmain announced that it was releasing a Zcash ASIC miner, Zcash co-founder Zooko Wilcox wrote in a forum post that, knowing ASIC-resistance cannot be maintained forever, he has been educating himself on the current state of cryptocurrency mining.

Wilcox, who is also CEO of the privately-operated Zcash Company, said that he had been struck at how essential GPU mining was for people in countries such as Venezuela, where ASIC miners — which need to be imported — would likely be stolen during shipment.

“Oh, bottom-line, by the way, is that I’m basically still in the same place now that I was four years ago when we first decided to go for widespread-distribution-of-coins at the expense of sunk-cost-incentive-alignment,” he concluded. “I still think that widespread-distribution-of-coins is more important” even though “it can’t last forever.”

Featured Image from Shutterstock.

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Josiah is an assistant editor at CCN. A former ancient and medieval literature teacher, he has been reporting on cryptocurrency since 2014. He lives in rural North Carolina with his wife and children. He holds investment positions in bitcoin and other large-cap cryptocurrencies. Follow him on Twitter @Y3llowb1ackbird or email him directly at josiah.wilmoth(at)ccn.com.