The world’s first Bitcoin Computer — Unboxing

The launch of the world’s first Bitcoin computer led to a bit of excitement for me. Not wanting to wait for the product to ship, I went ahead and picked it up from the 21 office, letting it sit on my desk at home until the followgin weekend when I had the opportunity to set it up. This post will walk you through my first impressions of the product from unboxing to setup.

Packaging

The Bitcoin Computer packaging is some of the nicest I’ve seen outside of Apple. They managed to maintain a fairly resonant brand throughout the website as well as the packaging. I would sum up the experience as similar to the feeling you get when you open an Apple product, but 100% unique to their brand. You may be asking yourself, “Mason, you’re an engineer, why do you care what the box looks like?” …Its too sexy not to care.

Sliding the top off, we catch a glimpse of the Bitcoin computer, very well presented front and center. I love the fan encasement on top, it hides all the messy electronics underneath. They seem to have screened the main PCB that it sits on with their logo as well, the folks at 21 have even managed to make an exposed PCB sexy.

The 21 Bitcoin Computer consists of two PCB’s, the lower level is a Raspberry PI and the second layer is a custom 21.co PCB that contains their custom ASIC’s and associated cooling setup. After picking it up and taking a closer look at the PCB, the only thing that irks me is that the lower level PCB has no pads or legs to rest on. Having designed and manufactured PCBs in the past, I would say that my impression is that 21 had decided not to drill any additional holes into the lower Raspberry Pi portion of it to avoid mucking around with a complete product, instead relying on the four holes which would have otherwise been used for plastic or rubber legs and using two of them them to fasten the 21 PCB onto it.

At this point, I did not want to plug anything in. I’ve blown up my fair share of electronics as a college student and will be resorting to instructions before continuing. Thoughtfully placed underneath the Bitcoin Computer was a card that directed me to the 21.co/setup website for instructions.

From the 21 setup website, I was directed to select my OS which I did. As I scrolled down to the next step I muttered to myself, “Holy fuck” as I laid eyes on some of the most beautiful setup diagrams I had ever seen for electronics. In a former life, setup guides associated with electronics had resembled this. Going through the 21 setup guide was a very refreshing experience. 21 has managed to do away with what is typically the frustrating experience of setting up low-level electronics.

21 has managed to make the setup of what was expected to be a complex electronics setup into a pleasant experience.

The only point of frustration came in Step 3 of the wiring diagram, where the user is requested to plug in the 21 Computer into a USB port, which my shiny new MacBook does not have. However, this was the only unexpected portion of the experience.

This is what the complete setup looks like (the 21 box is just there for looks).

The remaining setup experience consisted of an install script which leads the user through the wireless setup. 21, has been kind enough to provide a wifi module with the Bitcoin Computer to facilitate a more seamless setup experience.

Disclaimer: The WiFi module only supports 2.4GHz, if your router does not show up in the list of available networks, this could be reason why.

Overall, this was a highly pleasant experience compared to my previous foray’s into Bitcoin development. Although I have not yet laid down any code, I feel excited for what is to come. You can learn more about what is possible with the Bitcoin Computer here: (https://21.co/learn/).