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Lots of retired Bitcoin mining computers are showing up on the second-hand market for cheap. Could these once-impressive machines have a second life in scientific computing or machine learning?

Despite the steady increase in computing power from one generation to the next, computers are rarely fast enough for their users. Over the years, programmers and PC vendors have found ways to speed them up. If you know exactly how a computer will be used, you can design it to maximize performance and minimize cost.

Crypto rigs are created with only one task in mind: to perform the arcane mathematical computations associated with crypto mining. The crypto gold rush has led to a rapid evolution of the technology – a mining unit that was competitive a few years ago might already be obsolete. For instance, a few years ago, mining rigs made extensive use of Graphics Processing Units (GPUs); in more recent years, Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs) and then Application-Specific Integrated Circuits (ASICs) have replaced graphics cards. Crypto mining has also experienced a bit of a downturn recently due to environmental fears and instability of the larger economy.

As a result of these and other factors, mining rigs are increasingly ending up on the second-hand market, where you can buy them relatively cheaply even if you are not a professional user. Could one of these rigs serve another role?

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