This morning’s Observer column:
In the bad old days, prospecting for gold was a grisly business involving hysterical crowds, pickaxes, digging, the wearing of appalling hats, standing in rivers panning for nuggets, “staking” claims and so on. The California gold rush of 1848-55, for example, brought 300,000 hopefuls to the Sierra Nevada and northern California and involved the massacre of thousands of Indigenous people.
In our day, the new gold is bitcoin, a cryptocurrency, and prospecting for it has become a genteel armchair activity, although it is called “mining”, for old times’ sake. What it actually involves is using computers to perform unfathomably complicated calculations to create cryptographic “hashes” – codes that are, in practical terms, uncrackable.
Sounds intimidating, doesn’t it? But in reality anyone can play the game. You just have to have the right kit…