ASICs drastically changed how Bitcoin is mined. Miners went from home computers to GPU gaming rigs to industrial scale energy consumption within the span of a few years. These drastic leaps in technology altered the course of network security through hashrate growth.
Looking back, nothing has yet to have the same impact on the Bitcoin market as the advent of ASICs. For now, the 2013 ASIC boom can give us insight into what might happen if we see another systematic change in machines.
The ASIC race to market
Bitcoin ASICs were almost 200 times more powerful than the leading hashing machine on the market when they debuted in 2013 from Canaan Creative. The jump from CPUs to GPUs and ASICs increased hashrate quickly. Below shows when ASICs hit the scene and how chip size played a role in the rise of hashrate.
Since 2013, the story has been the same: each new miner is significantly superior to the last. Older generation miners were getting priced out in a short amount of time, further meaning the speed to plug-in was everything for a proper return-on-investment.
Efficiency gains are visible in on-chain data.
The gains in hashrate caused by ASIC deployments triggered a dramatic reduction of the block interval, or the time between blocks being settled by the Bitcoin network.
Usually the block interval is around 10 minutes. But in late 2013, the block interval went as low as 7.5 minutes as pushed down by the deployment of more powerful miners to the network.
Indeed, during this period Bitcoin experienced 56 consecutive upward difficulty adjustments. The rapid increase of the block interval went on for about a year until difficulty caught up to the new ASICs finding an equilibrium, and the block interval started increasing in late 2013.
Two changes could impact the hashrate like the 2013 ASIC boom did: a massive amount of hashrate deploying at once or a drastic improvement in mining technology similar to the jump from GPUs to ASICs.
After reviewing the machines and hashrate deployments scheduled for 2022-2023, its unlikely either of those changes are likely to occur anytime soon.