Definition: What is an ASIC?
ASIC is an abbreviation for application-specific integrated circuit. Such integrated circuits (IC) are customised for a particular use, rather than intended for general-purpose use.
Examples of ASIC: a chip designed to run in a digital voice recorder or a high-efficiency bitcoin miner.
What is ASIC used for?
In Bitcoin mining hardware, ASICs were the next step of development after CPUs, GPUs and FPGAs. Capable of easily outperforming the aforementioned platforms for Bitcoin mining in both speed and efficiency, all Bitcoin mining hardware that is practical in use will make use of one or more Bitcoin ASICs.
Note that Bitcoin ASIC chips generally can only be used for Bitcoin mining. While there are rare exceptions – for example chips that mine both Bitcoin and scrypt – this is often because the chip package effectively has two ASICs: one for Bitcoin and one for scrypt.
The ASIC chip of choice determines, in large part, the cost and efficiency of a given miner, as ASIC development and manufacture are very expensive processes, and the ASIC chips themselves are often the components that require the most power on a Bitcoin miner.
While there are many Bitcoin mining hardware manufacturers, some of these should be seen as systems integrators – using the ASIC chips manufactured by other parties, and combining them with other electronic components on a board to form the Bitcoin mining hardware.
Applications of ASIC
- Field-programmable gate arrays
- Complex programmable logic devices
- Application-specific instruction-set processors