Nick Sears was 17 when he helped build a bitcoin mining farm in Dallesport, Washington. He was 18 when rules allowed him to buy bitcoin for the first time. And now, at 19, Sears has doubled down on his life as a bitcoin miner, saying "no" to college and "yes" to living in a room inside a data center that houses 4,500 whirling ASICs.
"My room is sound-locked," said Sears of the acoustic retrofitting of his living quarters. "So I can't hear the machines when I close my door, but they are definitely noisy if I have my door open."
The machines generate about 80 decibels of noise apiece — but Sears says he likes being as close to the action as possible. It also beats making the half hour commute each way from his parents' house in White Salmon.
The 19 year-old has spent pretty much every single day for the last two years teaching himself the nuances of how mining machines work – and crucially, how to fix them. He believes his education in soldering and electronics is worth a whole lot more to him than a university degree.
“I don’t think about going to college at all, just pursuing further knowledge in the repairs of the miners,” continued Sears.
Mining for bitcoin isn’t a glamorous job. However many miners explained that the allure of mining comes from being able to tangibly grasp the power of bitcoin.
“When we first got here, we were setting up racks, creating the network infrastructure for the internet, and we essentially had to wire everything,” he said.
“There’s so much noise, and there’s so much heat. There’s just so much action going on. It is quite cool to walk into a data center for the first time that’s mining bitcoin, because you can really connect the intangible aspects of bitcoin as a currency, with the physical nature of these machines consuming power and doing these calculations.”
It helped that he lives within minutes of some of the cheapest power in the world.
“All of our facilities are 100% hydro powered,” said Bennett.
The mining facility where Sears works is next to the Columbia River and directly adjacent the Dalles Dam. “We love that source of power. It’s cheap, renewable, and very abundant,” he said.
As for employee pay, Sears says that he makes $54,000 a year, plus full health insurance, which is paid for by the company.
Bennett also runs some mining machines exclusively for his employees. That amounts to about .02 BTC quarterly, which by today’s price equates to a $788 bonus every three months to Sears.
“With all the miners in China going offline, the difficulty rate has been changing, so the rewards are higher,” said Sears. “The last time we got a little bit more than we did the previous time, which is cool by me.”
Gitzes owns six machines that he says are on the “higher end.” When China expelled all its miners, Gitzes says it doubled the amount of money that his machines generate daily.
After paying the mining pool fee of 1.25%, Gitzes’ miners generate about .0055 bitcoin a day, or $216 at today’s prices. Daily electricity costs are about $30, so he’s pulling in roughly $186 a day, or just shy of $5,700 every month. At that rate, he’ll recoup his investment in about 11 months, assuming no major fluctuations in energy or bitcoin prices.
Gitzes was so impressed by the Compass business model that he quit his job at Amazon to join the team in March. “The mission to decentralize mining and make it so that everyone can participate is something that I find really important,” said Gitzes.