[email protected], a grid supercomputer project for detecting signs of extra terrestrial life from deep space, officially ended on December 15.

"We'll be shutting down the "[email protected] Classic" project on December 15," read an email sent by [email protected] administrators at the University of California at Berkeley, where the project started in 1999. "The workunit totals of users and teams will be frozen at that point, and the final totals will be available on the Web."

The Search for Extra Terrestrial Life at Home ([email protected]) project harness idle CPU cycles from millions of Internet-connected PCs across the globe in order to analyse data collected from massive radio telescopes. Running in place of a screensaver, the [email protected] software, when downloaded on a computer, collected raw data from a centralised [email protected] server bank and searched for patterns that might signal intelligent life - possible ET TV shows, radio communications or other signals.

Although the program ran as a screensaver the collective computing power was enormous; two million years of accumulated CPU time, and over 50TB of data, or "workunits" parsed. Over five million users have downloaded the software, according to the project organisers.

The project also became a kind of competition for hobbyists known as "overclockers" who tweak their systems to run as fast as possible, and use [email protected] workunits to measure system performance and claim bragging rights.

[email protected] will live on in another form. The project is being moved to the Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing (BOINC), an open-source grid project using the same principals as the original project. BOINC will continue the search for ET radio signals, but a new client also allows users to devote spare CPU power for other research projects, such as climate change, astronomy and curing human diseases.