Greer's Treis Blockchain in pursuit of the next big thing.

The empty racks may say more about Treis Blockchain than the full ones.

For the moment, the racks stand lonely and mostly empty in 25,000 square feet of space that echoes with footsteps when the rare visitor passes through the Greer facility. But the space represents the optimism of Treis Blockchain LLC, whose partners are charging ahead to fill them.

They will place one computer server beside the next one one compact device after another until the shelf is full, then the entire rack, then the entire warehouse. And then another warehouse and another four or five spread around the Upstate. Before long, the servers will be too old to keep up, and one by one today's Application Specific Integrated Circuits, or ASICs, will be replaced, one after another, row after row.

They have the same optimism as the gold miners of '49, but these miners are looking for something precious in the digital world. Unlike the '49ers, they have a modern-day business plan and a patent-pending idea that would move the value of things in and out of the blockchain realm that has garnered a great deal of press, if just a little understanding.

All those ASICs will burn a lot of electricity and take a lot of hours to install, but managing partner David Pence believes he and managing partners Michael Bolick and Senter Smith are pioneers in the next big thing.

Several years ago, Pence was one of what he called "a bunch of guys" around the world that pointed their personal computers toward cryptocurrency. Called mining, the computers are dedicated to validate information, record the information in blocks, and connect each new block to the last in an ever-lengthening chain. As a reward for solving highly complex problems to validate the information, the miners are rewarded bits of the digital coin. Just as a dollar can be broken down into .01 pieces called pennies, a bitcoin is broken into .00000001 pieces called satoshi. The integrity of the chain is maintained by having 30 miners validate the information, Pence said.

The computers that validate the block are chosen at random and they're spread around the world, making it almost impossible to hack the system because a hacker would have to compromise all of those randomly chosen computers at the same time.

Just a few years ago, a person could set it up at home and start mining, Pence said, but as the necessary computing power grew, the cost of running the machines outpaced profit.

Pence, who had been operating his IT company...

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