So what is a Bitcoin?
According to the Bitcoin site it is a "peer-to-peer currency. Peer-to-peer means that no central authority issues new money or tracks transactions. These tasks are managed collectively by the network." There are a finite number of BTC issued (21 million), made available gradually.
How do you get them?
You can buy them on an exchange, but hurry, the services used to transfer actual money tend to shut these things down. The exchange rate is based on demand. One BTC is currently worth about $22. This is meaningless because by the time I finish writing the article and post it a BTC could be worth 75 cents.
You can also "bitmine" which means running bitmining software to decrypt BTC. Think Folding@Home only your computer isn't doing anything useful. As fewer and fewer BTC remain to be mined it takes more and more processing power to unlock each one. It could take a day to earn one BTC this way. The cost of extracting a BTC in terms of electricity and computer time probably exceeds its wildly fluctuating value.
If you want to speed things up you could always spend thousands of dollars to buy a bitmining rig. It pays for itself! Just not in the US dollars you used to buy the computer.
There can be hidden costs associated with bitmining as well:
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