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For bitcoin 'miners,' nice work if you can get it

Mining for bitcoin

For Steve Vittitoe, bitcoin is a fun way to make some extra money.

This unassuming 31-year-old family man, who is a computer programmer for a cybersecurity firm, runs a mini bitcoin-mining operation from the basement of his home in Valparaiso, Ind.

"It's as if there's a machine in my corner printing money," Vittitoe said.

In one corner of his basement he has set up a rack of specially equipped computers. These are called "miners" in the world of bitcoin. The machines run 24 hours a day, competing against other computers around the world to solve complex math problems. The first computer, or group of computers, that solve the problem receives a fixed amount of bitcoins.

Vittitoe's mining operation produces 1.2 bitcoins a day. If bitcoin trades for $600, that means $720 worth of bitcoins a day, or $262,000 a year. But that is a big "if" given bitcoin's volatility. In the last six months, bitcoin's price seesawed between $400 and $1,150.