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Coping with their losses

BLEAK FUTURE? A purposebuilt Application Specific Integrated Circuit miner. - TNP PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

They used to discuss profits and how to maximise them when it came to bitcoin mining.

Now, home mining interest groups mainly talk about coping with their losses.

The number of attendees at these informal meetings, where a niche community of miners shares tips and tricks, have dwindled.

Says Mr Santos, who stopped going to the meets last year: "There used to be about 50 attendees (a year ago). I think only less than 10 people attend these meetings now.

"Bitcoin rose in value since its introduction in 2008, hitting a record high price in late 2013 before falling drastically. Topics changed from making money to exit strategies. When I left, the mood was like a self-help group."

On Internet forums such as Hardwarezone.com, queries from prospective miners are instantly rubbished.

"They will get a standard reply. 'Don't even think about it,'" says Mr Santos.

Besides mining, bitcoin trading also appears to have lost steam here.

On Meetup.com, the Bitcoin Singapore Meetup Group saw a fall in the number of people attending its monthly meets.

There were 100 people at its February meet last year - and 30 at its February event this year, its website says.

In 2013, several bitcoin ATMs managed by firms Tembusu Systems and Coin Republic appeared around the island.

Today, at least five are no longer operating and another four were converted into payment kiosks that do not involve virtual currency, reported The Straits Times.

SOME REMAIN OPTIMISTIC

But some, like Cloudmining.sg founder Peter Yeo, remain optimistic about cryptocurrency here.

"If people stop mining, it just means that the coins that I mine become more valuable. The difficulty (of mining) will also fall, which means I can mine more," he says.

"Cryptocurrency is designed to not fail."

Not all agree.

Former US Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan once told Bloomberg that bitcoins are "a bubble" and do not have an intrinsic currency value.

The future of bitcoin mining, at least by private individuals, seem bleak.

Mr Santos points out that the "free market forces" behind mining bitcoins are now skewed against home miners due to the appearance of large bitcoin farms in other countries like China.

"Those farms will just keep on upscaling, driving up the mining difficulty and making things worse for us home miners," he muses.

"That's what you get when a currency is completely unregulated."