Virtual Currency Miners
When bitcoin debuted in 2009, it gave rise to an entirely new concept of value: virtual currency, or cryptocoins. The basic idea behind it is simple: calculations have value, and so solving equations of ever-increasing difficulty can be seen as a way to create currency. While the earliest bitcoin miners used their everyday computers, many modern virtual currency miners use specialised hardware.ASIC Miners
The difference between ASIC virtual currency miners and your general purpose computer is the nature of the chips inside the unit. Your computer is for general purpose computing, so it has to do a lot of things well; an ASIC miner performs only the calculations it needs to mine virtual currency, so it runs a lot faster.Hashes and Scrypt
There are several different kinds of virtual currencies, and they use different kinds of algorithms. Bitcoin uses a cryptographic hash called SHA-256, while other currencies such as dogecoins use scrypt to generate currencies. A SHA-256 virtual currency mineris for generating cryptocoins based on the same cryptographic hash.Don't Forget the Power
No matter which virtual currency captures your interest, mining it uses a lot of power. For any level of success you need powerful hardware and you have to run it all the time. That requires high quality power supplies and a good cooling solution. Your computer spends most of its time idling. Currency miners don't.The Big Why
It's hard to get rich mining virtual currency, but there is still money to be made. Many hobby miners can make a few dollars a day depending on their hardware, and there is always the chance that you might get in on the ground floor of another currency only to see it explode in value as bitcoin did. More than anything else, it's a gateway into the digital frontier, and there is no predicting the future.