My earliest participation in distributed computing systems was installing [email protected] on my computer in the early 2000s. Short for “search for extraterrestrial intelligence”, [email protected] at the time was essentially a screensaver that leveraged idle computing power to analyze data captured from the Arecibo Telescope to detect signs of intelligent life outside our planet.
The project failed to detect evidence of life outside earth. However, it proved that it is possible to leverage volunteer computers worldwide for scientific research, giving researchers more options beyond buying time on specialized supercomputers for their work. [email protected] also evolved from a single-purpose screensaver into the Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing (BOINC). This system matched volunteer computers with various projects that could use the spare compute.
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