If you're annoyed at not getting in on Bitcoin when it was vaguely affordable - let alone worth pennies - then you're not the only one.

Spare a thought for poor John Spinello, who missed out on some serious cash. Unlike most bitter Bitcoin complainers, however, he actually deserved it.

That's because over five decades ago, John Spinello invented the game Operation. It went on to become a worldwide hit that Spinello estimates has generated at least $40 million in sales since bursting onto the market in 1965.

Credit: Hasbro

More recently, there have been Shrek, Simpsons and Spider-Man spin-offs of the game, and even though the Internet and PlayStations seem to be more important to kids these days, Operation is still a firm favourite, found on the shelves at toy shops everywhere.

So the royalties are obviously piling in for Spinello, right? Wrong. The 80-year-old, who was a college student when he came up with the prototype for the game in 1964, was offered $500 - somewhere in the region of $4,000 nowadays - by famed toy designer Marvin Glass and the offer of a job upon graduation which never materialised.

Which is a bit of a kick in the teeth, especially a few years ago when Spinello was in need of - yes, you guessed it - an operation that he couldn't afford. That's some pretty heavy irony.

Credit: MB Games

In the end, he raised the cash he needed - some $25,000 - thanks to an online campaign and Hasbro, the company who own the rights to the game, buying his original prototype from him. Which was nice.

Not quite as nice as a share of that $40 million, mind you, but then again this can be a cruel and unforgiving world, even if you're the inventor of something that's brought pleasure - and, let's be honest, frustration - to millions of people for more than 50 years.

Credit: Hasbro

While he might not have the fortune, he was at least able to have the operation. And he's also become kind of famous within the toy community, by all accounts.

"We were at a toy convention a few years back," his daughter told Huffington Post when they broke the story about her father's operation a few years back, "and so many people acted like Wayne and Garth [from Wayne's World] meeting Aerosmith. He got a few 'we're not worthy's."

Imagine how many bitcoins he would have been able to buy if he'd been earning royalties though.

Words: Mischa Pearlman

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