From bitcoin (BTC) to ethereum (ETH), from waltonchain (WAN) to aion (AION); whether you are talking about a very popular cryptocurrency or a rather unknown one, they are all deeply rooted in mathematics. Mathematics that can be profitable if we are talking about cryptocurrency mining. As a result, the mining industry already grew massively in the race to design and produce the most efficient mining rigs out there.
Satoshi Nakamoto, the pseudonym of the inventor of Bitcoin, used a simple Central Processing Unit (CPU) to mine the genesis block (the first block) of the Bitcoin blockchain. Nowadays CPUs just won’t cut it. A user of the Bitcointalk forum, Artforz, discovered that Graphic Processing Units (GPUs) are substantially better at mining cryptocurrency. As a result, the demand for graphic cards skyrocketed. Later on, while cryptocurrrency mining became even more popular, miners switched to Application Specific Integrated Circuit (ASIC) miners. These miners require little to no technical knowledge, are almost plug and play and most important of all, are very efficient at mining cryptocurrency.
Tug of war
The rise of ASIC miners also gave rise to a side effect that is not in favor of all. ASIC miners are extensively used by mining pools and companies, which detracts from the degree of decentralization of a blockchain-network. Remember that the majority of blockchains are built on the idea of having decentralized governance.
Some cryptocurrency projects are eager to anticipate on these developments, to safeguard the decentralization of their network. In other words, these projects are not particularly fond of big mining farms concentrating mining activity. For example, in an effort to keep crypto-mining accessible for private individuals, Monero (XMR) implemented a hard fork that should make ASIC mining ineffective on the Monero network. Ethereum is also progressing with plans to implement a new Proof-of-Work (PoW) algorithm that would make ASIC miners less efficient and would leave more territory for GPU miners to maintain the blockchain and make profit by mining blocks.
If we look at history though, the efforts to combat ASIC miners will most likely be in vain in the long run. Monero for instance, was designed from the get-go to be ASIC-resistant. This worked for a while until ASIC miners appeared that are specifically designed to mine monero (XMR). More importantly, this going back and forth happened multiple times.
The bottom line is that ASIC-resistance is not workable since history shows that ASIC miners always have found a way to wriggle around the limits that are put in place. Like hardware keeps improving and getting cheaper, ASIC miners are expected to overcome the ASIC resistance every time and therefore are here to stay.