Alright. I've been cranking away through different things and various topics in an effort to decide what I'd like to next. A few things have come across my radar.
I was originally considering just building a device that computed hashes of... whatever. Basically, just a hardware implementation of a hashing algorithm. The user could choose any old input and the device would return an MD5 hash or SHA-X hash. I think that should be easy enough to implement and would definitely afford the chance to learn more about hashing/crypto and I would have a fun time building it.
I've also always been interested in cryptocurrency, especially since I've been reading Cryptonomicon. Bitcoin is also forever an interest, but I've never bothered to take the time to learn enough to get comfortable with the finer points of it... even to bother trying to use it or mine it. After doing some reading (a lot; too much; too many hours of which occurred last night;) and learning of how impractical mining is these days on a regular old GPU or CPU, I happened across the dedicated hardware being built for the sole purpose of mining. Not only that, I learned that the bulk of mining bitcoin is hashing and cryptography, specifically SHA-256 and these dedicated rigs are Application Specific Integrated Circuits (ASICs) that interface with a computer and then churn hashes out like no tomorrow.
Perfect. So here's the project: build a 7400-series based bitcoin mining rig. A perfect (in my opinion) hybrid of anachronistic technology fused with something that’s quite cutting edge. There will be a couple of things that I'll need to work out, otherwise where would the fun be? Practically, there will be no way to store the bitchain on 7400 series chips, so it'll have to be a hybrid an really, only the hashing will be done on the 7400 series block of everything. In order for it to actually mine bitcoin, I'll have to get it to interface with a computer over USB ideally, but any old way will work. Even the hashing though will bit a bit of a challenge because 32 bytes will be a fair amount to handle on 7400 series chips.
This hits upon quite a few things that I'd like to be learning and understanding on a much deeper level.
So, in the short time ahead I'll be reviewing the Bitcoin source code as well as learning a bit more about SHA-256 hashing. Then, it's on to (hopefully) figuring out how to implement a hashing algorithm in some good old hardware.