robocoinIt’s hard to take virtual currencies seriously, but when companies start dispensing them from automatic teller machines, we have to take notice.

For $20,000, you can buy the “Robocoin,” a kiosk that turns dollars into “Bitcoins,” and Bitcoins into dollars.  That’s about $17,000 more than a standard ATM costs.

In case you were out when the movie started, a Bitcoin is a form of money not issued by central banks but “mined” on the Internet, according to strict rules, using encryption codes. What are they worth? It fluctuates,

In 2009, a pizza was sold for 10,000 Bitcoins, and usage spread from there, though it’s still a very nerdy thing. You can get Bitcoins by accepting them as payment for goods and services, or by buying them from a friend, or by buying them from an exchange. Some big companies are giving it the eye, as they say.

A federal judge recently declared that Bitcoins are real money – at least real virtual money — and several small companies are making hay on Bitcoin-related activities. “Bitpay,” a company in Atlanta, processes Bitcoin transactions for over 7000 merchants, handling $5 million in transactions a month. Butterfly Labs mines Bitcoins. (You need virtual drilling equipment, but at least it doesn’t drip hydraulic fluid.)

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