Announced on the 21st day of the month, 21 Inc. has released their first prototype of the “bitcoin computer”, a developer-oriented bitcoin miner and micropayments server. The announcement of the bitcoin computer comes on the heels of 21’s recent revealing of their business model months after speculation followed initial investment rounds totaling over $116 million from a list of bluechip venture capital firms. 21’s roster of investors boasts the likes of Andreessen Horowitz, Thiel Capital, and Khosla Ventures, as well as former ARM CSO Mark Templeton and Larry Summers (former United States Department of Treasury under the Clinton Administration) as strategic advisory to the company.

21’s Beastly Bitcoin Computer

As for the hardware itself, the bitcoin computer aims to please the most dedicated of bitcoin developers, claiming native hardware and software protocol support. The chipset of the bitcoin computer is capable of approximately 0.16 joules per gigahash and can calculate 50-125 gigahashes per second. Compatible with Windows, Mac, and Linux operating systems, the bitcoin computer is slated for release on November 16th, 2015 with a price tag of $399 USD. Even though scarce details have been released, this hardware module, which is capable of integrating directly with the bitcoin network, will act as a source of passive income by selling digital products and services for bitcoin directly.

Each 21 Bitcoin Computer includes a micropayments server that you can use with a few keystrokes to buy and sell digital goods over the internet for bitcoin. As such, it’s a tool for making passive income at home by selling access to your software and assets for bitcoin.

– 21 Inc.

21 Inc. Bitcoin Computer

21 Inc.’s bitcoin computer promises to enable native protocol support and micropayment server capabilities.

Tailored toward technical users, the bitcoin computer offers a command line interface for programmatically working with cryptocurrency payments protocols. Most notably, the company claims that the bitcoin computer is capable of “access to a constantly replenishing source of bitcoin” and further, capabilities to “write programs that connect to the bitcoin network just as easily as they connect to the internet”. 21’s bitcoin computer ships included with the following components:

  • 128GB SD card
  • WiFi adapter
  • 5V power supply
  • Laptop-to-Device cable

Each bitcoin computer will also come with a copy of the blockchain ledger and bootstrapped with a micropayments server capable of buying and selling digital goods directly. After synchronization with the blockchain, the device will run as a full node without further intervention required, housed by its included 128GB SD card.

Specific tutorials on command line toolkit usage can be found on 21 Inc.’s website.

Profit Potential of the Bitcoin Computer

For those interested in making profits with the bitcoin computer, take note, as 21 Inc. has stated clearly that the intended use of such a device is most lucrative when selling digital goods for bitcoin rather than aggressively competing for mining revenue.

Bitcoin mining for the purpose of selling BTC on an exchange has the economics of a commodity business, while your globally accessible bitcoin-payable API can have the economics of a software business.

– 21 Inc.

The bitcoin computer is designed to provide a continuous stream of funds, allowing worldwide, autonomous payments for business APIs. Up until now, no company has provided native hardware or software support for the bitcoin protocol in the manner 21’s embedded mining solution does. What 21 has here is a small step for bitcoin mining, but a giant leap for the internet of things.

Bitcoin As A Protocol

With the advent of bitcoin computers, expect to start seeing developers build applications that communicate directly with the bitcoin protocol to provide products and services that can be bought directly with bitcoin and in an autonomous fashion. Embedded mining could eventually lead to a scenario where these computers are capable of operating from self-executing contracts (smart contracts), executing agreements between parties when predetermined conditions are met. Furthermore, with the marginal cost of digital services and products approaching zero, anticipate cryptocurrency acting as a system resource very similar to CPU or memory for such machines. In the long-run, this stream of cryptocurrency could act as a system resource for computational prowess.

21’s own Larry Summers put it best when he said “The 21 chip adds a whole new dimension to bitcoin’s potential utility. At first we may be struck by the presence of a technology like embedded mining, eventually we may be struck by its absence.”

What Summers is cautiously alluding to here is a fast approaching paradigm where users are dependant upon this continual stream of cryptocurrency in order to remain “online”. Such a stream, given that the bitcoin mining industry represents a natural monopoly, could essentially be switched off on command. Whether this applies only to machines exclusively or eventually humans as well, remains to be seen.

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Travis Patron

Travis Patron is the author of The Bitcoin Revolution: An Internet Of Money, a seminal publication in the digital money space which outlines the basics of the bitcoin payment system. As a public speaking authority, he regularly speaks to audiences on the economics & industry trends of bitcoin.


  • Reply

    Derek Teeso

    22 09 2015

    For anyone interested, Samuel Patterson completed a breakdown of hardware costs for the new 21 Inc. bitcoin computer.

  • Reply

    Tobias Becke

    04 10 2015

    21inc is building micro controllers that bring hashing to the masses. What if this micro controller could be used for research tasks instead of myriads of hashes? That way you could earn money by running climate simulations or fighting diseases. PiGrids “Gridcoin Computer” is able to perform scientific calculations and generate passive income for you:

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