In brief:

  • Charlie Shrem, Charlie Lee and other industry pioneers show Decrypt their original mining rigs.
  • Some of the rigs stretch back as far as 2011.
  • Anthony Pompliano had an entire room full of Bitcoin mining machines.

It's been over 11 years since Bitcoin's genesis block was mined by Satoshi Nakamoto. In that time, the network has expanded and thousands of new miners have entered the fray. But it all started with just a handful of libertarians and tech enthusiasts. 

These pioneers are now legends in the industry. Some command crypto events with thousands in attendance, others have legions of diehard fans on social media that listen to their every blog post or podcast. Now they’re taking a look back at where it all began.

Charlie Shrem: The second ever ASIC

Charlie Shrem bitcoin miner
Charlie Shrem pictured with Yifu Guo—the inventor of the ASIC. Image: Charlie Shrem.

"That's the second ASIC to ever be used on the #Bitcoin network, EVER," Shrem told Decrypt.

Playing a leading role in Bitcoin's nascent rise, Shrem founded both the Bitcoin foundation and one of the first-ever Bitcoin exchanges—the now-defunct BitInstant. After a tussle with the law, following claims of money laundering, Shrem shook off the stigma, founding several crypto-centric start-ups and a popular podcast, called Untold Stories.

Charlie Lee: Bitcoin mining machine from 2011

Charlie Lee bitcoin miner
Charlie Lee's Bitcoin miner from 2011. Image: Charlie Lee.

Lee has been in the Bitcoin industry longer than most. He dabbled in Bitcoin mining in early 2011.

"I found a photo of one from 7/16/2011. This is 6 graphics cards connected to one motherboard via risers," Lee told Decrypt.

But he ended up creating a clone of Bitcoin, one that would run faster and, in theory, cheaper. In October 2011, while working as a software engineer for Google, he created Litecoin—dubbed the silver to Bitcoin's gold. 

Today, Litecoin has a $3 billion market cap. Not that Lee has any coins, he famously sold them in December 2017, at the height of the Bitcoin bull run.


Bobby Lee: Bitcoin mining machine from 2011

Bobby Lee Bitcoin miner
Bobby Lee's miner circa 2011. Image: Bobby Lee.

"My first Bitcoin mining rig from summer of 2011," Lee told Decrypt

Crypto runs in the family, it seems. Charlie Lee's brother, Bobby Lee, is the founder of BTCC, which was the first Bitcoin exchange in China. Bobby has since founded hardware wallet company Ballet. Read our review of his wallet here.

Tyler Winklevoss: Early Bitcoin mining machine

Tyler Winklevoss Bitcoin miner
Bitcoin mining machine shown at Bitcoin 2013 conference. Image: Tyler Winklevoss.

"That's a miner from Bitcoin 2013," Gemini CEO Tyler Winklevoss told Decrypt. 

While Winklevoss admitted he hadn't dabbled in mining, he did provide Decrypt with a slice of Bitcoin history—an early Bitcoin miner pictured at the Bitcoin 2013 conference.

One-half of the renowned Winklevii, Tyler—along with his twin brother Cameron—has been involved in the industry for many years. Commonly known for their legal scuffles against Facebook's Mark Zuckerburg, the twins took their $11 million settlement and reinvested it into Bitcoin around 2013. They originally worked with Shrem at BitInstant, alongside ShapeShift CEO Erik Voorhees, but parted ways over strategy disagreements.

The pair eventually founded several companies, including cryptocurrency exchange Gemini. The exchange saw $82 million in trading volume in the last 24 hours, and its US dollar stablecoin Gemini Dollar has a $5.8 million market cap.

Anthony Pompliano and Jason Williams: Bitcoin mining rig from 2015

Pomp's first bitcoin miner
Pompliano's first crypto mine circa 2015. Image: Jason Williams.

Bitcoin bull and partner at Morgan Creek Digital, Anthony 'Pomp' Pompliano, started his crypto journey a little later than most on our list. 

In 2015, while working as a product manager for Facebook, Pomp started mining Bitcoin and Ethereum alongside his future venture capital colleague, Jason Williams.


"Throw back to me and Pomp's first crypto mine circa 2015," Williams tweeted.

Pomp also writes a daily crypto letter and hosts the Pomp Podcast, where he recently interviewed Bitcoin skeptic and billionaire Mark Cuban, who, it turns out, now owns some Bitcoin. Aren’t those Bitcoin OGs relentless?

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