In the Docksway landfill site near Newport, Wales, there is a hard drive Buried under large piles of muddy rubbish. The area is about the size of a football field and somewhere out there is £4m on a computer hard drive. James Howells, who works in IT, was clearing up his desk last summer when he found the drive in a drawer, rescued from an obsolete Dell laptop, and threw it out.
Then last Friday, shortly after he heard Bitcoin had soared past $1,000 on Wednesday afternoon, he realized what he had done. “You know when you put something in the bin, and in your head, say to yourself ‘that’s a bad idea’? I really did have that,” Howells reflects. “I don’t have an exact date, the only time period I can give, and I’ve been racking my own brains, is between 20 June and 10 August — probably mid-July”.
In 2009, when the currency was only known in tech circles, Howells ran a program on his laptop for a week to generate a digital wallet with 7,500 Bitcoins in it — for almost nothing. Doing the same thing today would require enormously expensive computing power. He did it out of curiosity, did not take his little stash of bitcoins very seriously and soon forgot about them.
It was comparatively easy to “mine” the digital currency when Howells generated his in early 2009, a few months after the currency’s launch. Virgin Airlines recently announced that it would accept Bitcoins for its Virgin Galactic flights. The move has finally caused central bankers to take the currency seriously. On Wednesday afternoon, the crypto currency’s value soared past $1,000 making Howells’ little stash worth £4m.
Howells immediately ran down to the landfill. “I had a word with one of the guys down there, explained the situation. And he actually took me out in his truck to where the landfill site is, the current ditch they’re working on. It’s about the size of a football field, and he said something from three or four months ago would be about three or four feet down,” Howells said sadly.
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