Here’s the basic scheme
behind SETI@home: Radio signals received by Berkeley’s Project Serendip
at the world’s biggest telescope dish - the 1,000-foot Arecibo Observatory
in Puerto Rico - are carved into 330-kilobyte “work units” and distributed
by a central computer to users over the Internet. The free client
software works like a screen-saver, analysing the data in the background
or when your computer is otherwise idle.
After a few hours or days of data-crunching, depending on how high-powered
your computer is, the results from the work unit are uploaded, then
a new work unit is downloaded to start the cycle again.
SETI@HOME, DEVELOPED at
the University of California at Berkeley, was officially launched
on May 17, 1999 - although beta testers and UNIX users got an early
crack at it. Since then, the number of personal computers running
the program has rapidly increased. Users from 226 countries and
territories around the world have devoted about 280,000 years of
computer time to the effort, with as much as a millennium’s worth
added every day, organisers say.
Versions of the program are available for Windows, Mac, various
flavours of UNIX, the Be operating system, OS/2 and more.