Uncategorized I threw away $4.8 million in bitcoin

I threw away $4.8 million in bitcoin

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Five years ago, I threw away a hard drive. An utterly generic
250GB portable hard drive, already a few years old, with a couple
of dings and scratches in its shell and with the beginnings of an
audible click that would have eventually killed it.

It had a data file containing 1400 Bitcoin on it. No big deal, at
the time.

Today, those few kilobytes are worth more than four million
dollars.

I think I might be a touch emotionally fragile right now. I just
checked the Bitcoin exchange rate and got a bit teary.

— Campbell Simpson (@csimps0n) May 23, 2017

To be honest, the details are a bit foggy these days. My best
recreation of my potential brush with incredible riches comes
from everything else that was happening at the time. When I moved
out of home, when I moved back home, when I broke up with a
girlfriend, when I PayPal’d some random stranger from the other
side of the world a few US dollars for a digital transaction of
an effectively worthless faux-currency.

At the start of 2010, Bitcoin trading wasn’t even really a thing.
It was hard to find anywhere that would sell BTC. Mining coins —
with your PC’s CPU, then with your PC’s graphics card, then with
specialised and increasingly expensive hardware — was the easiest
way to accumulate Bitcoin out of thin air, with the only
investment being electricity and processor cycles.

But I found a site, or forum — I can’t remember which — where
someone was selling Bitcoin. I think I paid well above the
quasi-official exchange rate for the coins; who really cares
about the difference between 1.2 cents and 1.5 cents when you’re
only spending $25? I’d read something fun about them, probably in
WIRED, and wanted to understand them better, so I bought some.

Eventually, I had the Bitcoin sitting in a cold storage wallet — an offline file, outside
of any online bank or exchange or digital storage facility. A
text file, basically, with a long string of cryptographic hash
that represented an encryption key. I didn’t trust any online
service not to crash and lose my investment.

I put on a hard drive.

I used the hard drive for a whole bunch of things. Storing
pirated music and movies and TV series, a portfolio of my best
tech writing work, all my uni assignments, photos of friends and
family and the couple of holidays that I’d taken. I took the hard
drive with me when I moved out of home with my long-term
girlfriend, and used it for all the things you use a portable
hard drive for.

In the year or so that followed, we broke up, and I moved back
home. As I was moving out I used the opportunity to clean up some
of the accumulated tech detritus that comes with being a
technology journalist. USB sticks, 3D glasses, USB cables, PC
components — all that sort of literal junk. A pile of junk that
went into a skip. That hard drive was in the pile, and it had
that damn annoying click. I had better portable hard drives.

I didn’t need, or care about, anything on it. The photos were
backed up to another portable drive, my writing was in Google
Drive, the music was on my desktop PC.

So I threw it away.

This is probably one of the stupidest things, in hindsight, that
I’ve ever done. And I’ve done a lot of stupid things a lot of
times.

— Campbell Simpson (@csimps0n) May 23, 2017

I think I remembered the Bitcoin a couple of months later. I know
that I actually remembered them because of something else on the
drive — a terrible quality pirated copy of The Hire, BMW’s short car-porn vignettes
staring Clive Owen, which was and is still hard to find on the
‘net. Remembering that on the drive made me think about what else
was there — including a little digital marker for 1400-odd
Bitcoin.

When I remembered that I’d thrown away my Bitcoin stash, I was a
little bit pissed off. In between the time that I’d frittered
away $25 over the ‘net and the day I remembered how many BTC I’d
actually thrown away, the price had skyrocketed — relatively —
from barely more than a cent to around $2.50 per coin. $4000,
give or take, was what my loss was. I was in a bit of debt from a
holiday to Japan a while before, and that four grand would have
been nice.

It wasn’t a big deal. It was one of those “aw, shit” moments that
happen to everyone on a semi-regular basis. I got a parking
ticket, I forgot to send a birthday card to a friend overseas —
that kind of thing. Without the benefit of hindsight, of course,
it wasn’t that big a deal. I think I got a promotion around that
time that more than made up for my lost investment. Bitcoin was a
fun fad.

Obviously time and the ‘net have proven me wrong.

Time has been kind of the price of Bitcoin. Every now and then
since, when I’ve seen Bitcoin in the news or reported on Gizmodo
or mentioned in reference to world events like the WannaCry
malware, I’ve checked the price. Bitcoin has become pretty
popular since 2011. And I’ve done a bit of back-of-the-napkin
calculation, and — sometimes, not every time — had a bit of a
quiet moment and a shake of my head.

At the moment, at a historic high price in USD and AUD alike, my
1400 BTC would be worth $4.8 million — and change. The price,
always wildly volatile, is skyrocketing at the moment. When I
tweeted this story, it was $4.2 million, but in the two days
since it’s up 15 per cent.

It’ll probably go higher.

But, today, it’s worth $4.2 million, and that stings just a
little bit. Because I had too many hard drives and this one had
some scratches.

— Campbell Simpson (@csimps0n) May 23, 2017

Honestly, as far as I’m concerned, my stash of ‘coin is gone.

In the past couple of days, since I told my story, I’ve been
contacted by friends and strangers alike with advice and
suggestions — and some hare-brained proposals — on how to
retrieve my Bitcoin.

Apparently landfill is exceedingly well organised and stratified.
And my trash would be with other trash of the same age, with
dates and locations and other clues along the path to a dented
hard drive in a pile of USB cables. I could contact the tip or
the council in the area that I rented that apartment in, and see
if they could point me in the right direction. Police do it all
the time.

One friend said that all I’d need to do is find someone willing
to take a quarter stake in it — on spec, of course, I don’t have
a million bucks — to make it worth that person’s time to track it
down. But then that raises questions of its own — what if someone
else found the hard drive, that used to be my hard drive, first?
What right would I have to that text file?

Strangers on Twitter — quite a few of them, really — have told me
to double down and to invest in Eth. I’m fine, thanks. My dalliance with
volatile digital currencies is over. I’ve learned my lesson,
whatever it is. And I still have some Dogecoin, anyway.

I don’t even especially want to find those Bitcoin, though. I’m
really happy with my life at the moment. I don’t need them. I’d
like them, sure, but I don’t need them. This isn’t trying to get
philosophical — the real value was in the friends we made along
the way, or some crap like that — but just to say that I’ve come
to terms with losing those Bitcoin. That chapter of my life is
over.

I spent $25 on some Bitcoin. When I realised what I’d lost, they
were worth about $4000. If you wanted to put a dollar figure on
the anguish that I feel, it’d be somewhere between those two.
Definitely not in the realm of millions of dollars. It’s mostly a
fun story that I trot out every now and then, and occasionally
pretend to be mock-upset about, and only occasionally actually
upset.

Do you have any regrets? I sure do. But in the scheme of things,
this is only really a small one.

This article first appeared on Gizmodo. See the
original article here.

Read more posts on Business Insider Australia
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