British engineer who threw away a hard drive holding 7,500 Bitcoin has a new idea on how...

nanoguy

Posts: 1,231   +24
Staff member
In context: For years, a British computer engineer who essentially threw away the key to his cryptocurrency vault has been trying to excavate the device on which it is stored from a local landfill. This year, he came up with the boldest project yet, but the chances of it getting approved by authorities are slim to none.

Back in 2013, James Howells's life changed when he threw out a hard drive that may just be the most valuable in the world. Before doing so, Howells had two 2.5-inch hard drives stored in a drawer, one of which he intended to get rid of, and another that had a digital wallet with some 7,500 Bitcoin on it. Even as Bitcoin has fallen significantly from its peak value of nearly $67,000, the wallet still holds the equivalent of almost $185 million in digital tokens.

After accidentally throwing the wrong drive in the trash, the British computer engineer asked Newport's city council to allow him to dig for it in a landfill. However, his requests were repeatedly denied, even when he offered to pay the local government a quarter of the cryptocurrency holdings in that wallet. It turns out his "treasure hunt" is considered dangerous for the environment in all of the forms presented over the last nine years.

That said, he isn't giving up just yet. Howells hopes to persuade local authorities to let him find the valuable hard drive with a new proposal that is backed by a hedge fund. Finding such a small device in over 100,000 tons of garbage would be a monumental task, but the engineer believes using artificial intelligence and automation can help sort more quickly through all the waste.

Howells has two versions of this new plan. The first would involve sorting through all 100,000 tons for three years using a combination of human sorters, robotic "Spot" dogs from Boston Dynamics, and a special conveyor belt with automated sorting systems — all of which would cost no less than $11 million and take nine to twelve months to complete. He also envisions a scaled-down version of this operation that would only cost $6 million and take up to 18 months.

Both plans would involve a team of experts in various areas such as landfill excavation, waste management, and data extraction. Howells even sought the help of an advisor who worked for OnTrack — a company that successfully recovered 99 percent of the data from the black box of the crashed Columbia space shuttle.

After excavating the garbage, Howells plans to clean and recycle as much of it as possible, while the rest would be reburied. His team is even exploring the feasibility of building a solar or wind power plant on top of the landfill site. The idea is to have as little impact on the environment as possible, but whether or not this will finally convince authorities to greenlight the operation remains to be seen.

Howells is even prepared to offer more incentives, such as using part of the funds to give £50 (~$61) to every one of Newport's 150,000 residents if the operation is successful. For now, however, all he can do is wait for an official response and hope it will be favorable.

Masthead credit: Kanchanara

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Tams80

Posts: 115   +78
You know, it sounds like quite a deal for the local community.

The man's clearly gone nutty, but hey, it does make logical sense.

Still, doubt the jobsworths on the local council will allow it though.

Hopefully, by the time he finds it, Bitcoin will be worth zero.

Also, he is no engineer, rather a failed scam profiteer.

Bitcoin will always have value, as the value is in the blockchain implementation. Now how much value? Who knows. And is it currently grossly overvalued for what it is? Almost certainly. But it still has value.
 
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Theinsanegamer

Posts: 3,406   +5,713
How salty do you anti-crypto people get? Are you just jealous of how much potential money the guy can reclaim..?

Like seriously, what's the point of this comment beyond looking like an a-hole towards the guy?
Crypto has been used to drive insane market speculation that has not only screwed over PC builders multiple times, not only has forced itself via NFTs into our escapist hobby, but has also contributed to the market issues we say today.

Some of us dont like speculative cryptobros poisoning literally everything they touch, scamming hundreds of thousands and turning the internet into their personal playground.
 

umbala

Posts: 641   +1,118
How salty do you anti-crypto people get? Are you just jealous of how much potential money the guy can reclaim..?

Like seriously, what's the point of this comment beyond looking like an a-hole towards the guy?
So anyone who doesn't see through a cheap Ponzi-scheme is anti-crypto and salty? Sure, buddy.

We're all so jealous of all that "potential money" that guy could reclaim. Explain to us again the definition of this "potential money" please. To us regular people it sure seems that "potential money" in crytpo really means finding an even bigger sucker than yourself willing to pay even MORE for something worthless and that's where you get this "potential money" from. Correct me if I'm wrong.

Also, could you explain to me what crypto/bitcoin is backed by? What assets, goods, or services, does crypto represent? Is it backed by a product or ANYTHING at all? The answer is of course no. So spare us your little lecture about being salty.
 

Trillionsin

Posts: 1,888   +474
I feel like this HAS to have been asked... How does he know it's still in the landfill? What if someone found the drive before it made it there and someone wiped the hard drive and put it in their PC?

Or, even if they found it and somehow claimed it as their own and never told anyone?

Sorry, I don't know if it would be possible for someone else to be able to access it or not. I would assume so if they knew what they were doing and the hard drive was still functional.
 

mbk34

Posts: 334   +233
Crypto has been used to drive insane market speculation that has not only screwed over PC builders multiple times, not only has forced itself via NFTs into our escapist hobby, but has also contributed to the market issues we say today.

Some of us dont like speculative cryptobros poisoning literally everything they touch, scamming hundreds of thousands and turning the internet into their personal playground.
You forgot to add that Bitcoin mining puts 37 megatons of CO2 into the atmosphere each year. There's also the fact that it's needlessly wasting energy at a time when Russia is weaponising energy supply.
 

Lounds

Posts: 1,147   +1,055
So when this news came to light bitcoin was worth $1000, so I can see how this has escalated but honestly I think by the time it's found he'll be close to dead and would have wasted most of his time finding the HDD instead of actually enjoying his life.
 

terzaerian

Posts: 1,369   +1,966
You forgot to add that Bitcoin mining puts 37 megatons of CO2 into the atmosphere each year. There's also the fact that it's needlessly wasting energy at a time when Russia is weaponising energy supply.
A figure we only know because Bitcoin is transparent by design.

Unfortunately we'll never know how much energy has been wasted on gaming, a past-time which produces nothing.
 

VitalyT

Posts: 6,271   +6,837
Like seriously, what's the point of this comment beyond looking like an a-hole towards the guy?

That guy is jumping on piles of trash in search for millions. I'll have my share of puking on him, along with everyone else who has the brains and decency to understand this senile play.

Engineer,...LOL...

engineers.png
 
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He thought he threw away the drive with bitcoin, but infact he threw away the drive he was supposed to, and the drive containing the bitcoin has been sitting in his draver for last 8 years.
 
My daughter works in the police and she said, at the time, it could have been found by a search team. If the hard drive was material evidence in a murder, it would have been found. The real *****s here are the jobsworths that control the tip. They would prefer to have the key to the padlock on a rubbish tip, rather than a fortune. My strategy would be to replace the Council by rewarding anyone who stands or votes in favour of the project.
 

mbk34

Posts: 334   +233
A figure we only know because Bitcoin is transparent by design.
I don't think we need to know anything from bitcoin. Plenty of folk with more knowledge than me (or you) have come up with similar figures. They've presumably working on how much power various GPUs use and how many bitcoin they'll mine in a given time. The amount of energy being consumed is huge. We even hear of bitcoin miners buying dirty coal plants just to generate enough power just to run their set ups.

Unfortunately we'll never know how much energy has been wasted on gaming, a past-time which produces nothing.
I doubt anyone plays games 24 hours a day, 7 days a week like bitcoin miners are currently doing. In any case, pointing at others and saying they're worse than you doesn't really justify anything.
 

terzaerian

Posts: 1,369   +1,966
I don't think we need to know anything from bitcoin. Plenty of folk with more knowledge than me (or you) have come up with similar figures. They've presumably working on how much power various GPUs use and how many bitcoin they'll mine in a given time. The amount of energy being consumed is huge. We even hear of bitcoin miners buying dirty coal plants just to generate enough power just to run their set ups.
And you'll just selectively ignore the myriad examples of Bitcoin miners investing in building solar into their operations, or taking over old hydroelectric dams to cherry-pick the one that bought an old coal plant, instead of letting it rot.

I doubt anyone plays games 24 hours a day, 7 days a week like bitcoin miners are currently doing.
You're right, their electricity surges and ebbs in ways which are unpredictable that make running a grid a nightmare for operators, versus Bitcoin miners that consume at a constant, steady rate, are amenable to shutting down during emergencies, and sustain usage during the overnight hours (which grid operators need because the power they generate has to go somewhere, and they can't just shut the plant down for the night).

You're really poorly educated on this subject, and it's made worse that you're also choosing to spread it, like an anti-vaxxer at a tupperware party.

In any case, pointing at others and saying they're worse than you doesn't really justify anything.
It does when they're trying to use environmentalism as a cudgel. They're going to find really fast that using it as a club is going to backfire on them, spectacularly.
 
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Steezus

Posts: 10   +5
So anyone who doesn't see through a cheap Ponzi-scheme is anti-crypto and salty? Sure, buddy.

We're all so jealous of all that "potential money" that guy could reclaim. Explain to us again the definition of this "potential money" please. To us regular people it sure seems that "potential money" in crytpo really means finding an even bigger sucker than yourself willing to pay even MORE for something worthless and that's where you get this "potential money" from. Correct me if I'm wrong.

Also, could you explain to me what crypto/bitcoin is backed by? What assets, goods, or services, does crypto represent? Is it backed by a product or ANYTHING at all? The answer is of course no. So spare us your little lecture about being salty.

It's backed by the destruction of the environment by greatly accelerating climate change through the burning of fossil fuels to produce electricity.