>> There's plenty of media hype surrounding the currency but nobody really tells you the whole story.
It is not just hype. There is a feeling that Internet needs its own type of currency and Bitcoin offers a platform for a true universal currency. The concept of net neutrality should apply to currency as nations cannot suddenly devalue their currency to hurt anyone. Bitcoin offers freedom from govt and that is the fun.
There is a very good reward if you can mine. Say you have a machine that can crack the mine, you get about 30 bitcoins. It is a tough race as anyone that has a very good machine can actually make good money for the 30 bitcoins that are given every now and then.
It seems that the market appeal of these parallel processors & custom ASICs is similar to the appeal of ever faster network connections to the high frequency traders on Wall Street -- the race to get there microseconds before the other guy. Someone will always come forward with a faster machine, so the "miners" need to make their money quickly, before their hardware becomes obsolete.
But it remains to be seen whether Bitcoin can go mainstream. Meanwhile, it does bear a certain resemblance to a Ponzi scheme.
Sure, you can always use of the shelf microprocessor or even FPGA...but it is much more efficient to use custom made ASIC for this application specifically...I think jury is out...if bitcoin maintains its popularity and appeals to every Joe, and that is a big IF...and if the US goverment doesn't kill all digital currency as they would threaten the US dollar., and that is a small if (they likely try)..then bitcoin CPU actually makes sense, you have to be able to run these encryption operations very quickly if you are paying for coffee or parking with these bitcoins...Kris