The image above is a new USB miner similar to the ASICMiner's Block Erupters. The price tag is $98, with bulk discounts typical of Chinese manufacturers, for dual mining capabilities. This bad boy can mine Bitcoin and Litecoin at the same time! The device offers 60 khash/s for a total energy usage of around 4 watts. A total of 10 dualminer USB miners would run a total of $921.20 and net in 600 khash/s for 40 watts, compared with an HD 7950 that costs $300 and also produces 600 khash/s but using closer to 250 watts. The energy savings could potentially add up over the course of a year and make this a worthy investment. Not to mention the added income from mining Bitcoin simultaneously.
Not that I am giving any mining advice at all to my readers, just facts.
These devices have been sent to preliminary reviewers around the world and user reviews have begun to trickle in showing these Scrypt Mining ASICs in the wild.
How is it possible to hash both SHA-256 and Scrypt on the same device?
Without getting too much into the nitty-gritty of Application Specific Integrated Circuit (ASIC) design; at first glance, one might presume correctly that Bitcoin SHA-256 miners are unable to mine Scrypt altcoins such as Litecoin because that would be an unspecified application. However, as a bitcointalk user explains:
Have a look into litecoin's source code and you'll discover sha256 operations.
Scrypt is an 'extended' sha256 proof-of-work you could say.
So one could use the sha256-asic for both btc's and ltc's sha256 calculations, for scrypt you would just need some additional logic and memory.
In fact, some readers may remember that the original purpose of the Scrypt algorithm's incorporation in lieu of SHA-256 in Litecoin, and other successor Scrypt altcoins, was to add "memory hardness" otherwise known as resistance to GPUs, FPGAs, and ASICs. The calculations that are involved in Scrypt mining require much more physical memory than is used in Bitcoin SHA-256 mining.
What do Scrypt mining ASICs mean for Scrypt altcoins?
Shortly after Litecoin's release, GPU Scrypt mining software was developed showing soft points in the memory hardness intrinsic to Litecoin's unique nature. Some in the Litecoin community are calling for developers to increase the memory requirements of the Litecoin hashing algorithm to belay the coming flood of Scrypt mining ASICs. As previously reported on CCN: Alpha Technologies of the United Kingdom has promised Scrypt mining ASICs to be shipped out in the latter half of 2014. The first batch of preorders has since been closed and a trickle of updates are keeping both customers and eager scam-spotters at the edge of their seats.
Always with technological innovations, such as when Bitcoin mining transitioned to ASIC miners, there are naysayers up until Wired Magazine gets their hands on one. Butterfly Labs did not turn out to be a scam (arguable point) and the feasibility of Bitcoin ASICs, and now Scrypt Mining ASICs has been demonstrated to the world without a doubt with functioning prototypes.
Very simply, Scrypt Mining ASICs will do to Scrypt altcoins what ASICs did to Bitcoin:
Mining centralization and increased energy efficiency... Until the GPU miners find something else to do.