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The story of Wired and the bitcoin lost forever
The story of Wired and the bitcoin lost forever
Bitcoin

The story of Wired and the bitcoin lost forever

By Eleonora Spagnolo - 16 Mar 2021

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The famous magazine Wired had mined bitcoin, but then lost them. The story emerged in 2018, but has resurfaced these days. 

To be precise, in 2013 Wired had mined 13 bitcoin. At the current price ($55,000) they are worth about $715,000.

To tell the truth, they did not lose them as a result of distraction, but by voluntarily choosing to destroy the private key

The encounter between Wired and Bitcoin 

It was 2013 and a small Bitcoin mining machine from Butterfly Labs was delivered to Wired’s editorial office. At the time it was still possible to mine Bitcoin using a home computer. 

The article says that the arrival of the small device raised ethical questions for the entire editorial staff. What to do with the bitcoin? Was it legal to own a machine that was in fact printing money? Wouldn’t they risk being swayed to one view of bitcoin rather than another? 

In any case, the machine did its job and by solving complex calculations, eventually extracted 13 bitcoin. While the time of year when those 13 bitcoin were mined was not stated, it is fair to point out that in 2013 bitcoin underwent one of its first rallies, rising from a few hundred dollars to over $1,000 in November. So, hypothetically, the small machine had mined an amount of $13,000 in Bitcoin. In 2018, when this story was told, Wired claimed that those 13 bitcoin were worth $100,000. Today, as mentioned, they are worth approximately $715,000. 

But back to the story. What was Wired’s editorial staff supposed to do with 13 bitcoin in 2013? There were discussions about donating them to charity, giving them to journalists’ associations, or to school associations. The simplest choice was to destroy the private key

But Wired’s journalists were not satisfied with just destroying the private key, they also gathered evidence that without it, no one, in any way, could access the 13 bitcoin. Thus the 64-character alphanumeric code was lost forever. No one had kept another copy, and indeed the public address shows that those 13 bitcoin are still there

A copy of the private key was stored on the hard drive of Stefan Antonowicz, who was the chief engineer at Wired. But he himself admitted to destroying the drive. There is still a way to retrieve the private key: it would be enough to guess the combination of 64 characters, although it would be like looking for a tiny object thrown into the ocean. 

According to Chainalysis, those 13 bitcoin are part of the 4 million bitcoin lost forever. These are all cases where users have lost their private keys, in some cases through simple distraction. Of those 4 million, over a million actually belong to Satoshi Nakamoto. And who knows, maybe one day he will move them. 

The rest are related to the stories of those who probably didn’t understand what those bitcoin were, nor did they imagine that one day they would be worth so much. 

For example, James Howell lost 7,500 bitcoin simply by throwing away his computer in 2013. At the time, a bitcoin was worth $130. Today, that fortune is worth more than $412 million. 

In hindsight, what would Wired have done? They probably wouldn’t have destroyed the private key. They most likely would have kept those bitcoins and maybe use them as: 

“the editor-in-chief could really use some money to hire another reporter.”

 

Eleonora Spagnolo
Eleonora Spagnolo

Journalist passionate about the web and the digital world. She graduated with honours in Multimedia Publishing at the University La Sapienza in Rome and completed a master's degree in Web and Social Media Marketing.

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