How Roo and I became filthy rich today


I've always been interested in the practical side of cryptography and stuff like digital currencies, more as a matter of curiosity than anything else. It started with needing to help some friends fighting a revolution in Burma figure out how to communicate securely, and went on from there. So, back in 2011, when Bitcoin was the first of the new wave of digital currencies, and only worth a few cents, I used to mess around with them. I learned how to buy them and trade them and just generally fart around with them. It was a harmless distraction, and what with the price always going up, I probably made a couple of hundred bucks, fifty cents at a time, back then.

Well, with the price of Bitcoin having edged up to nearly $20,000 each (they've gone up 178,000 percent), I thought I'd rummage in the digital sofa cushions for lost change. I have nine hard drives with me, and there was a chance that a forgotten wallet file from back then might still be there.

So, I hooked the drives up one at a time, and, my, my... lookee here, baby... what did I find, but the old digital wallet. It was stuffed to the tune of 21.5 Bitcoin. Though the price had fallen in the time I was conducting the search to a meager $16,800 each, I wasn't too severely disappointed. If I had to settle for $360,000, then I would just buck up and put a brave face on it. Rather than speculate further, I would call it a day at the baccarat table, tip the lovely dealer and cash them in en masse and transfer the resulting torrent of dollars to a checking account. I'd better just send a third of the windfall straight to the IRS so I wouldn't get too used to having it close to hand. I could be too easily tempted to start amassing a collection of old mandolins and vintage British motorcycles. I told Roo to get ready for the good stuff. She was about to get back on the good jerky. She would obviously require a more expensive and dignified name, one that spared no expense on the numbers of letters in it. I allowed my mind to wander over the country we had lately seen in such great detail. Where would we live, now that we could, within reason, choose any place we liked? The sudden freedom and hope of the thing was too much. I was getting too far out ahead of myself. Better to start modestly. I'd hitch the trailer up for one last ride out West, where I would shove it into a ravine just south of that hellhole up at Dismal Lake that it almost went into the first time around.

I was glad to learn that coming into so much unexpected cash wasn't changing me one bit. I didn't allow myself to sink into an easy, cushy lifestyle. Unlike most of the wealthy, I remained interested in more than myself. My curiosity about the world was undiminished. So undiminished, in fact, that before I hitched the trailer up for its death march to Idaho, and because I had learned about Bitcoin way back then and have a pretty good understanding of how it works, it occurred to me that the $400K figure might have been off. The interface between the complex worldwide system of Bitcoin nodes and the wallet software on one's personal computer could conceivably have produced some kind of error. 

I was rusty on the procedures, so it took several hours to arrive at a final determination of just how rich Roo and I were. I won't bore you with the technicalities, because it is nothing but the worst kind of them, but after a lengthy process involving checking the cryptological addresses of all those old Bitcoins against their combined histories on the blockchain, a concrete valuation of my towering cash portfolio eventually emerged. The initial $400,000 estimate was only off by a little — depending on whether you counted up or down from the $400,000. It was off by $399,700. In the typical way of such errors, it was in the bank's favor.

It was nice while it lasted. 

In case you've never seen one, is what a Bitcoin address looks like:

1GsvpKfBZPPeiN24FNHXKsAMVzHeizjLV6  If you need any practice using them, feel free to try that one.

Otherwise, damn the damn things.