One of the most fascinating things about the Bitcoin virtual currency is how it is possible to earn it without doing any work of a traditional sort. At the heart of the Bitcoin protocol is an algorithm that assigns rewards to computers that complete cryptographic problems of an important kind, and chasing down those plums is a favorite activity for many.

In the early days of the currency, that typically meant devoting unused desktop computers to the task. In fact, quite a few people became rich from setting up Bitcoin mining programs in computer labs and offices, raking in the rewards thereafter.

Over time, though, the competition heated up. The first major development was when computer graphics cards were turned to the task of solving Bitcoin puzzles. With a thousand or more parallel instruction units in every card, these peripherals quickly overwhelmed the efforts of traditional processors.

The reign of the GPUs did not last for long, though. All the while, hardware engineers had been working on specialized circuits that were meant to mine Bitcoin and nothing else. Because of their intense focus on the problem, these processors to be far more effective at the job than even the GPUs that had made such waves with Bitcoin.

Today, then, it is only those who are equipped with these specialized ASIC devices who can hope to mine Bitcoin profitably. Computer users and even those with the fastest GPUs can no longer even hope to make back the money that would be spent on powering their equipment.

Fortunately, there are now much easier ways for the average person to acquire Bitcoin. Although this is a relatively recent development, for example, it is now fairly simple to buy bitcoins with credit card payments, making it no harder than shopping online at Amazon or the like.

Those interested in this option can find more information at plenty of Bitcoin exchanges today, as this payment option is becoming fairly widespread. Even if it is no longer so simple to earn Bitcoin for free, then, it is easier than ever to buy it by conventional means. That's undoubtedly good news for the future of the currency and its users.