Photo by Moose Photos from Pexels

I won $80 but lost $13M

By BussTechno | BussTechno | 18 Mar 2021

Part I of II

Once upon a time in 2009, displaced in a magical land called Ramadi, Iraq four semi-young soldiers unknowingly embarked on a journey that could have forever changed their lives.  In early November 2008 I was stationed at Camp Ramadi with the U.S. Army (Don't worry I'm not a FED, I'm a libertarian- which some people consider worse).  This is a long story so settle in with me in my despair as I relate the true story of how I and my mates "P, "J", and "M" lost over $13M and a total combined $40M worth of Bitcoin at today's valuation.

P.S. your disbelief is warranted, but not required; I'm sure we all have our crypto horror stories and my aged memories from 2009 will probably not help to dissuade you.  Just try to be kind when you're fact checking and ACKSHUALLY-ing me down in the comments.


War time deployments are neither glamorous or as action filled as what many movies depict; no, I was not a POG or a fobbit for you grunts out there.  There are hectic times, but they come in sporadic spurts.  This wasn't my first rodeo [deployment] so I already knew that the best way to make the time pass was to fill every second of the day doing something...anything to keep my mind busy.  We were fortunate enough to be located at an established FOB (Forward Operating Base) that had a dining facility (DFAC), gym, satellite internet access, and telephones to call back home.  Shortly after arrival I began to create a semi-stable routine: gym, work, gym, take university classes online, SSS (S#@t, shower, shave), sleep, rinse & repeat the next day.

It was during research for an intelligence/cryptography (still not a FED)  course section in early 2009 that I was introduced to a web article describing a new concept of digital currency that could potentially revolutionize the way commerce was transacted.  I don't recall how I initially found Bitcoin but I believe I went down a rabbit hole after reading a WIRED magazine article on cryptography. I do not have a definitive timeline outside of February 2009 but it is based on memory and archived logs of my activity pulled from my still: functioning, removed, cloned, and secured hard drive (more on that later).  After reading the Satoshi whitepaper and speaking to three close friends we immediately decided to try out this new digital funny-money. 

In February/March 2009 BTC was not worth the electricity it took to mine using the high powered dual core pentium processors running our government issued Dell laptops.  In case you are wondering, this was not against policy or regulation at the time, because there was no such precedence for using GI equipment for mining.  It might have bent the rules for P2P applications on the network's acceptable use policy (AUP), but that would have been subjective as nothing was clearly defined; regardless no one seemed to notice or care.  So we four downloaded the OG Satoshi miner and decided to place a wager of $20 per person on who could mine the most coins before we finished our overseas time in late July. We assumed it was a good use of tax payer equipment as it was providing recreational activities for deployed service members.

From late February/early March to July 23, 2009 our group mined a combined ~675-700 Bitcoins; I have to ball-park it, because I am working off of a 12 year old memory. I do have the exact end date though as I have most of the original work documents saved to disc that I transferred off of the GI laptop.  Each of us won the mining lottery at least once and earned transaction fees. Also unless it is a false memory, I remember the additional coin bonus we received for being some of the first to join the network (and definitely the only Americans mining via satellite from Iraq) which I believe was 25 or 50 BTC.  This in itself is odd, because I have not been able to verify via wayback machine or BTC archives that there was ever a "coin drop" in the beginning of the network.  If you were an early BTC miner I would appreciate you validating/invalidating my memory in the comment section below.

In the end I hoarded roughly 225 BTC and secured the $80 pool.  I was pretty happy with myself that I netted $60 in a buddy competition that put valueless fake internet money in an application sitting on my desktop. Additionally, I am reasonably certain these public keys are ours as myself and "P" were playing around with transferring coins via IP address to each other and sent an arbitrarily high amount back and forth:




(It could very well be that these are not our pubs and their inclusion is not intended to mislead the reader, however after four years of forensic data mining these appear to be the most likely candidates as transactions/pubs belonging to us.)

One item to note is that I am a digital hoarder.  I have file drawers of paperwork and TBs of CYA (Cover Your A$$) work emails, personal emails, documents, and pictures.  If I deem an item to be anything other than junk, it originated or was sent to me; I probably have a copy in some form. 

Now, I thought I was being very careful when I copied my wallet.dat and renamed it, hand wrote at least one key pair, and typed each pub/private key pair and embedded it in an innocuous looking document, so that I would have backups in the event of a possible media failure... I even have a vague memory of taking a picture.  These actions seem kind of odd in hindsight considering it wasn't worth anything at the time, but my thought was that if it ever blew up like I had read about on the channels, "could be $10,000 per coin in 10 years", then it would be worth the effort.  "P" and "J" copied off their wallet.dats & then printed off little BTC dollars that may or may not have had their keys on it (I don't remember) and kept them in their wallets (leather not .dat).  I can't speak to what "M" did- I either didn't see or don't remember.  We fumbled through it all and didn't really know what we were doing as there was no wiki at the time that we could glean information from, yet we persisted and successfully, one form or another, left Iraq and made the trek back home with our digital valueless booty in tact.

*Join me tomorrow in Part II for the conclusion of the hellscape that is this story.*


disclosures: I own BTC

credit: Photo by Moose Photos on Pexels


How do you rate this article?



Technologist, libertarian, and jpegs


I write about Technology, Crypto, and JPEGs. If I write about it and own a position- I will disclose it. *For entertainment only*

Send a $0.01 microtip in crypto to the author, and earn yourself as you read!

20% to author / 80% to me.
We pay the tips from our rewards pool.