For Virtual Prospectors, Life in the Bitcoin Mines Gets Real

Aubrey McIntosh has taken up mining in his spare time, and he’s finding it hard and hot — even if it’s prospecting for a virtual currency and a computer is doing all of the work.

Mr. McIntosh, a semiretired chemistry professor in Morris, Minn., is among the growing ranks of enthusiasts who use powerful computers to “mine,” in insider parlance, “bitcoins,” an unregulated digital currency.

Mr. McIntosh keeps his specialized computer, which he said cost about $1,500 and is custom-built to find bitcoins, near the chimney flue in his basement to try to get rid of all the heat it generates.

“It sounds like an aircraft carrier,” he said. Since turning the computer on his electricity bill has about doubled.

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