Bitcoin is a peer-to-peer digital crypto currency introduced as open source software back in 2009 by a developer referred as to Satoshi Nakamoto, though it seems that nobody knows the real developer’s name. Bitcoin is called a cryptocurrency, because it uses cryptography algorithms to control the creation and transfer of the digital money. Users send payments by broadcasting digitally signed messages to the P2P network and participants in the decentralized network known as miners verify and timestamp transactions into a shared public database called the block chain. Bitcoins can be obtained by the process of the so called mining or in exchange for products, services, or other real currencies. There are multiple Bitcoin exchanges where you can trade BTC for other crypto currencies or real money, both buying and selling.
Commercial use of Bitcoin is still very small in the form of goods or services that you can purchase for bitcoins compared to its use by speculators on exchanges, which has fueled price volatility. The fact that the exchange rate of a single BTC can greatly vary not only form day to day, but it can also change very quickly in just a minute is one of the most serious concern to merchants that are considering of accepting bitcoins as a means of payment, but still the high exchange rate that is currently over $800 USD for 1 BTC makes it attractive alternative to real money, especially when you also consider the very minor taxes you need to pay for a Bitcoin transaction as compared to credid card processing taxes for example.
Bitcoin is the biggest and most widely known crypto currency nowadays, in fact it is the crypto that started it all and since it generated so much attention many other crypto currencies have appeared. Nowadays it is hard to just mine bitcoins with your computer and in order to actually mine bitcoins at a good rate per day you need a specialized hardware called Bitcoin ASIC or Bitcoin Miner. In the earlier days you could mine with just the processor of your computer, then it was possible to use your video card, but nowadays the network difficulty has gotten so high that mining Bitcoins with your computer you would not be able to just cover the electricity bill with what you earn. Bitcoin uses SHA-256 as its proof-of-work scheme, but there are a few other major alternatives of Bitcoin that use SHA-256 and can be mined the same way as Bitcoin and with the same hardware including the specialized Bitcoin ASIC hardware miners. These are Namecoin, Devcoin, IXCoin, Freicoin, Peercoin, Terracoin, Zetacoin and others. You can mine these coins and then trade them at crypto currency exchanges for Bitcoins and sometimes mining an alternative crypto currency and then trading it for BTC can yield a better profit than mining Bitcoins directly, especially if you have dedicated powerful hardware for that. And one of the latest trends is not buying directly the hardware, but renting it instead and as you can expect it is called cloud mining.