The ongoing shortage of the latest and best graphics cards like the RTX 3080 and RTX 3090 and PS5 consoles has pretty much been the number one tech story of 2021, but as we head into 2022, we might be able to add another new product to the mix: the latest AMD CPUs.
Even as the best processors all got updates in 2020 and 2021, from Intel Alder Lake to AMD's Zen 3, they've largely been spared the kind of scarcity problems we've seen with other new tech products.
Desktop PC building is too niche for scalpers to buy up processors in bulk to engage in dastardly profiteering – as with the PS5 and graphics cards – and consumer CPUs are too generalized for the kind of specific heavy-duty number crunching required for major cryptocurrency algorithms used by Bitcoin and Ethereum.
In the case of cryptomining, scalping and mining feed into each other as Ethereum miners drive up demand for graphics cards that profiteers take advantage of. Miners also have an additional financial incentive to pay a higher price if they can still make a profit mining the speculative digital commodity.
Bitcoin, meanwhile, is mined on specialized ASIC machines that cost thousands of dollars/pounds, so these are not really products the general public are even going to know about, much less purchase.
Enter Raptoreum, a so-called altcoin that seeks to lower the bar to entry for mining by leveraging the GhostRider algorithm to produce the digital coins. This algorithm, according to Bitcoin Press, can be done efficiently on a consumer CPU with a sufficiently large L3 cache. In theory, this should allow everyone to become a cryptominer by lowering the barrier to entry to a simple CPU.
The processors with the largest L3 cache sizes are AMD EPYC and Threadripper processors, but since those are server and workstation CPUs, respectively, they are very expensive.
Enter the Ryzen 9 3900X and Ryzen 9 5900X. With 64MB L3 cache and relatively low cost, these chips can mine Raptoreum for profit. Predictably, this means that demand for the chips is already starting to climb, which is driving up the price for the processors.
Will Raptoreum lead to AMD CPU shortages on the scale as we've seen with Nvidia graphics cards? That's highly unlikely, since it doesn't have the kind of enthusiast drive behind it the way Ethereum does and isn't likely to catch a pop culture wave like Dogecoin has.