When Gizmodo journalist Campbell Simpson threw away a portable hard drive with 250 GB five years ago, it contained a data file with 1,400 bitcoins. He gave it no thought. Little did he know he lost the chance to become a millionaire.
Today, that amount of bitcoin is worth around AUD$4.8 million.
In a post today, he recalled the incident in the context of several things happening in his life at the time, such as moving in and out of his home, breaking up with his girlfriend, and sending PayPal to a stranger across the globe.
2010: A Different Time for Bitcoin
Bitcoin trading was not a popular activity in 2010. It was hard to buy bitcoin. The easiest way to get it was mining using a PC, CPU, a PC graphics card and eventually with more expensive hardware.
Simpson came across a website that was selling bitcoin. He paid more than the quasi-official exchange rate for the coins, not paying attention to the difference between 1.2 cents and 1.5 cents when spending $25. He wanted mainly to understand more about bitcoin, which he had read about online.
He stored his bitcoin in a cold wallet. It was kept in a text file containing a string of cryptographic hash representing an encryption key. He did not trust any online service with his money.
Simpson put the money on a hard drive that he used for things like storing pirated video and music, pictures of family and friends, samples of his tech writing and his uni assignments.
Poof Goes The Bitcoin
When he moved out of his home with his girlfriend, he took the hard drive with him. When he moved back home, he decided to clean up accumulated tech detritus such as USB cables, USB sticks, PC components and 3D glasses. He put all of this stuff, including his hard drive, in a pile and threw it out.
The photos were backed up on another portable drive. His writing was on a Google Drive. The music was on his desktop. The bitcoin wasn’t even on his mind.
Simpson remembered the bitcoin a few months later. It came to mind when he remembered he had placed a BMW automobile porn video that had become hard to find on the Internet on that discarded hard drive. That’s when he remembered he had 1,400 bitcoins.
Also read: Bitcoin price is not bitcoin value
The Loss Accelerates
He was a bit upset thinking about the lost bitcoin. He realized at the time that the price of bitcoin had jumped from about a penny to around $2.50, meaning he was out around $4,000.
Today, the 1,400 bitcoins would be worth around $4.8 million. He estimated his trash would most likely be some place with other trash of the same age. He thought about contacting the local government in the area where he lived at the time to see if they could give him some idea where his trash might be.
Simpson decided, however, that the bitcoin chapter of his life is over. He would put a value on the lost between the $25 he spent and the $4,000 he realized he a few months afterward.
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