Large amounts of SETI data could soon be lost forever

Data collected during the early days of the SETI@home project is now at risk of being lost.

While these days distributed computing systems are nothing unusual, back in 1999 when researchers at the University of California, Berkeley launched the SETI@home project to analyze astronomical data for signs of extraterrestrial intelligence, it was something truly unique and special.

Anyone with an Internet connection was able to download special software and take part in the endeavor by allowing their computer’s spare processing power to work through the SETI data.

The project quickly gained a loyal following, with tens of thousands of people taking part.

Sadly, though, all good things must come to an end and the crowdsourced computing aspect of the project has been on indefinite hiatus since 2020.

It also turns out that much of the data collected during the early 2000’s is now stored in obsolete formats and on server hardware that became defunct and unsupported years ago.

This means that there is a very real possibility that it could be lost forever.

“These machines are no longer made by a company that no longer exists and are running on an operating system that no longer exists,” program director Eric Korpela told Motherboard.

“They served admirably for a decade or more. I think it’s kind of sad if they just fade into history without some evidence that they were there.”

“We run through things so fast that they get lost unless we make a direct effort to save them.”