A Yeovil computer shop is reinventing itself in the wake of a new decentralised financial movement sweeping the globe.
Computer Doctor in Yeovil town centre is the first business in the town to begin accepting payments in cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin.
It also manufactures and sells “mining rigs”, which allow customers to “mine” their own cryptocurrency and, according to Computer Doctor workers, create “passive income”.
Asked to explain cryptocurrencies, employee Daniel Chase said: “The simplest way to describe it is that it is digital money.
“A sterling coin is centralised, it is backed by the government.
“A cryptocurrency coin is decentralised, it is built on a public ledger.
“It is the people getting together and saying, ‘we have had enough of the banks’.
“I know a lot of people who don’t keep their money in banks anymore.”
What is Bitcoin and cryptocurrency?
Bitcoin is a payment system first created in 2008, after the last global financial crash, by a person or number of people under the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto.
It is similar to existing payment systems run by banks, Visa, and Paypal, but it is run by the community, meaning it is completely decentralised.
Underlying blockchain technology creates an immutable distributed public ledger that records every transaction, and transactions are verified by “miners”, who use computing power to solve cryptographic puzzles.
There will only ever be 21 million Bitcoins mined, meaning it has a fixed supply.
Bitcoin is the first and largest of more than 1,500 cryptocurrencies that are traded across the world, and the value of one Bitcoin rose from under £700 to a high of more than £13,000 in 2017.
One Bitcoin is currently worth £8,311, with the current global valuation of all cryptocurrencies currently standing at around £365 billion.
Cryptocurrencies have exploded in popularity across the world in the past six months.
Computer Doctor, on Sherborne Road, began accepting cryptocurrencies in January after workers at the store started to build cryptocurrency mining rigs.
Chris Collier, from Computer Doctor, said: “Customers saw the mining rigs in the shop and were asking whether we take cryptocurrencies as payment.
“So far, in terms of payments with Bitcoin, it has been a bit slow, but people need to get their head around how it works.
“It’s not just Bitcoin we take, we also accept many other cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin Gold, Bitcoin Cash, Ethereum, and Dash.
“We have been doing around one transaction a week through cryptocurrency, but it’s growing so fast, some of the suppliers we buy from now take Bitcoin just like they would use Paypal.
“There was definitely a spike in interest after a BBC Panorama documentary which was aired recently.”
Chris Collier says the shop, specialising in laptop and desktop repairs, electrical equipment, and website building, is reinventing itself.
He said: “Many people don’t own laptops or desktop computers any more, everyone uses smart phones to get onto the internet these days.
“We are trying to reinvent ourselves, I think you always need to keep up with the times.
“It is very exciting to be a part of it.”
What is cryptocurrency mining?
To verify and place new transactions within a cryptocurrency payment system, mining is conducted.
Mining is the process of using computer power and electricity to solve cryptographical puzzles.
Solving these puzzles is known as “proof of work” and this contributes to the system by verifying transactions, acting as record keeping for the immutable distributed public ledger.
Miners are then rewarded with newly minted coins depending on their efficiency.
The mining rigs that the shop sells are racks of computer graphics cards that are used to verify transactions on the public ledgers that underpin cryptocurrencies, with miners being rewarded with newly minted coins.
Mining rigs are left to run 24/7, and are actually solving cryptographic puzzles in order to “mine” coins.
Computer Doctor sells these mining rigs for thousands of pounds.
Chris Collier said: “We started doing the mining rigs just before Christmas, we make them all here ourselves, it takes a day, sometimes two days to build a rig.
“Our electricity bill is through the roof, but after a few months of mining, these rigs have already paid for themselves.
“It does get very, very hot with all the mining rigs working, in the summer it will need air conditioning!
“A lot of people that come in, when we tell them about the rigs, they want to buy one, and we have sold four mining rigs so far.”
For the Computer Doctor team and many other cryptocurrency miners around the world, it is becoming increasingly more difficult to source graphics cards due to the cryptocurrency craze.
Chris Collier said: “The problem is that at the moment the cost of the parts needed to build a rig is always changing, just like the cryptocurrency market.
“The graphics cards were £479 in December, they are now £749.
“Nearly all the suppliers in the UK are completely out of graphic card stock, there’s people hiring planes and flying them in.”
Daniel Chase added: “A lot of video gamers who want graphics cards for their computers are not very happy at the moment because miners taking all the graphics cards.”
The shop also conducts lessons for local people to come and learn about cryptocurrency and mining.
Daniel Chase said: “We do lessons where we can sit down for an hour or so with a tea or coffee and teach you about it all.
“We have done about ten lessons so far, with a wide variety of different people.”
Mr Chase added that he likes to think of the workers at Computer Doctor as “digital cowboys”.
He said: “Romantically speaking, this is similar to how gold was mined in the days of the gold rush, but we are not mining physical gold, we are mining digital gold, and it has value, just like physical gold.”