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Mine Cryptocurrencies Sooner (Part 3)

By Raymond Nijssen, Vice President and Chief Technologist, Achronix, Mar. 19, 2019 – 

New, post-Bitcoin cryptocurrencies have been developed with ASIC resistance to level the competitive playing field for cryptocurrency miners, as discussed in parts 1 and 2 of this blog. ASIC resistance was developed to counteract monopolization of cryptocurrencies by the few entities that can afford to build ASIC solutions, as has happened with Bitcoin. However, ASIC resistance does not ensure the necessary scarcity of a cryptocurrency. Consequently, developers of cryptocurrency algorithms have devised an additional method to fundamentally ensure scarcity. It's called memory hardness, which can be combined with ASIC resistance. The most prominent and promising examples of these new cryptocurrencies are Monero/XMR and Ethereum/ETH. These new cryptocurrency algorithms are both ASIC-resistant and memory-hard.

One way to make a cryptocurrency-mining algorithm ASIC resistant is to require more hardware to execute the algorithm than can fit in an ASIC. For example, algorithms that require several gigabytes of memory, e.g., the Equihash algorithm used for Ethereum, are memory-hard.

Memory hardness is incorporated into cryptocurrency mining algorithms to bar execution shortcuts that would otherwise permit pre-computation. A memory-hard cryptocurrency mining algorithm requires that the mining process must read a value stored in a memory location, use that value according to the steps specified by the current algorithm for that specific cryptocurrency, and then use the result as the address for the next memory transaction. As a result, the memory address values cannot be determined a priori. Different memory-hard algorithms ensure this feature in somewhat different ways.

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