Taylor's Bitcoin HW Research

Bitcoin and the Age of Bespoke Silicon

Early on in the Bitcoin days, before they had ASICs, I got excited about designing ASICs for this interesting domain, and then followed closely as 20+ ASICs were collectively designed by the world. It was an awesome experience to be able to compare notes between my own design and what the world came up with. As a result of that experience, in 2013, I wrote the first academic paper on Bitcoin mining chips and their connection to creating low cost custom ASICs. I was interested in the topic both because it was an emerging class of applications, and because Bitcoin mining is a worst case application for the Dark Silicon problem. Shortly after that, in 2013, I started working on a new direction, generalizing the experience to do research in Machine Learning and Video Transcoding ASIC Clouds (our submission to ISCA in 2015 preceded Google's announcement of the TPU (tensor processor unit) in 2016 and also Video Transcoding ASIC Clouds, announced by Google in ASPLOS 2021.

Here is the abstract:

This paper tells the story of Bitcoin hardware: how a group of early-adopters self-organized and fi- nanced the creation of an entire new industry, leading to the development of machines, including ASICs, that had orders of magnitude better performance than what Dell, Intel, NVidia, AMD or Xilinx could provide. We examine this story for clues as to how we can foster greater innovation in the semiconductor industry and enable this phenomenon to occur more broadly for more application areas, spawning a new age of hardware innovation tailored to emerging application domains--an Age of Bespoke Silicon.

It attracted a lot of interest -- I ended up on National TV and interviewed in National Press and Radio, and talking to a bunch of the developers of Bitcoin mining chips as well as owners of large-scale bitcoin mining installations. The paper has also become the go to paper for projecting the future of Bitcoin mining hardware.

Nov 2014    My work on Bitcoin referenced in this coindesk article on Moore's Law.
Sep 2014More of my work related to Bitcoin references in this coindesk article on immersion cooling with a few quotes from me.
June 2014 Interviewed in this article in Bitcoin magazine.
May 2014Article in Korn Ferry Institute featuring my CASES paper.
May 2014This work on state attacks on Bitcoin employs the models in my 2013 CASES paper on Bitcoin mining.
Mar 2014My Bitcoin mining paper work referenced in Electronic Cooling Magazine.
Jan 2014Article in Data Center Knowledge discussing my Bitcoin CASES paper.

Dec 2013 I helped a reporter from the New York Times, Nathaniel Popper, as he deliberated on whether to fly to Iceland to meet a stranger and view their installation! He put together this great story on recent developments in Bitcoin mining. (I am quoted a few times.)

Also quoted in a Venture Beat article.
Oct 2013 Because of some of my Bitcoin knowledge, a few newspapers, radio shows, and a TV show interviewed me about Bitcoin, Tor and the Silk Road takedown:

Al Jazeera America
(Live National TV)

MBT on News Show Consider This with Antonio Mora

(15 min TV spot)
Baltimore Sun

Silk Road arrest exposes a hidden Internet 10/6/13
UK Telegraph

Hit men, drugs and the fall of Ross Ulbricht, the Silk Road 'mastermind' 10/4/13
95.7 KJR: Bob Rivers      

Professor Michael B Taylor on the end of Silk Road (10 min spot) 10/3/13
Los Angeles Times End of Silk Road for drug users as FBI shuts down illicit site
Note: Misquoted. Didn't say "disagree with his con";
I said "we are uneasy with the moral implications of his actions."
Newcastle Herald

The end of the Silk Road paved with gold 10/5/13
Times of Mumbai

Hit men, drugs and the fall of Ross Ulbricht 10/4/13
Sep 2013 I helped a reporter from the Wall Street Journal put together this front page article on Bitcoin mining.
Sep 2013 New CASES paper, Bitcoin and the Age of Bespoke Silicon.

The Evolution of Bitcoin Hardware.
This is a great overview of Bitcoin mining hardware evolution, a follow-on to Taylor's CASES 2013 paper, it updates that groundbreaking paper to 2017.
Michael Bedford Taylor.
IEEE Computer, Sept 2017.(pdf)(bib)

Bitcoin and The Age of Bespoke Silicon
Michael Bedford Taylor.
International Conference on Compilers, Architecture and Synthesis for Embedded Systems (CASES), Sept 2013. (Talk) (Paper)(bib)