|Bitcoin is capturing the imagination of many Internet users as a digital currency.|
Missing: hard drive containing Bitcoins worth £4m in Newport landfill site
Buried somewhere under four feet of mud and rubbish, in the Docksway landfill site near Newport, Wales, in a space about the size of a football pitch is a computer hard drive worth more than £4m.
It belonged to James Howells, who threw it out when he was clearing up his desk in mid-summer and discovered the part, rescued from a defunct Dell laptop. He found it in a drawer and put it in a bin.
And then last Friday he realised that it held a digital wallet with 7,500 Bitcoins created for almost nothing in 2009 - and then worth about the same.
"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, who works in IT, told the Guardian. "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". At the time he obliviously threw them away, the 7,500 Bitcoins on the hard-drive were worth around £500,000. Since then, the cryptocurrency's value has soared, passing $1,000 on Wednesday afternoon.
Although Bitcoins have recently become part of the zeitgeist – with Virgin saying it will accept the currency for its Virgin Galactic flights, and central bankers considering its position in finance seriously – Howells generated his in early 2009, when the currency was only known in tech circles. At that time, a few months after its launch, it was comparatively easy to "mine" the digital currency, effectively creating money by computing: Howells ran a program on his laptop for a week to generate his stash. Nowadays, doing the same would require enormously expensive computing power.
That lost hard drive, though, contains the cryptographic "private key" that is needed to be able to access and spend the Bitcoins; without it, the "money" is lost forever.
And Howells didn't have a backup.
Source: The Telegraph