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After 32 years, one of many ’Internet’s oldest software program archives is shutting down Specific Occasions

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Enlarge / Field artwork for IBM OS/2 Warp model 3, an OS launched in 1995 that competed with Home windows.


In a transfer that marks the top of an period, New Mexico State College (NMSU) not too long ago introduced the approaching closure of its Hobbes OS/2 Archive on April 15, 2024. For over three many years, the archive has been a key useful resource for customers of the IBM OS/2 working system and its successors, which as soon as competed fiercely with Microsoft Home windows.

In an announcement made to The Register, a consultant of NMSU wrote, “We’ve made the tough choice to now not host these recordsdata on hobbes.nmsu.edu. Though I’m unable to enter specifics, we needed to consider our priorities and needed to make the tough choice to discontinue the service.”

Hobbes is hosted by the Division of Info & Communication Applied sciences at New Mexico State College in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Within the official announcement, the positioning reads, “After a few years of service, hobbes.nmsu.edu can be decommissioned and can now not be out there. As of April fifteenth, 2024, this website will now not exist.”

OS/2 version 1.2, released in late 1989.

OS/2 model 1.2, launched in late 1989.


We reached out to New Mexico State College to inquire in regards to the historical past of the Hobbes archive however didn’t obtain a response. The earliest file we have discovered of the Hobbes archive on-line is that this 1992 Walnut Creek CD-ROM assortment that gathered up the contents of the archive for offline distribution. At round 32 years previous, minimal, that makes Hobbes one of many oldest software program archives on the Web, akin to the College of Michigan’s archives and ibiblio at UNC.

Archivists akin to Jason Scott of the Web Archive have stepped as much as say that the recordsdata hosted on Hobbes are secure and already mirrored elsewhere. “No one ought to fear about Hobbes, I’ve acquired Hobbes dealt with,” wrote Scott on Mastodon in early January. OS/2 World.com additionally revealed an announcement about making a mirror. But it surely’s nonetheless notable every time such an previous and essential piece of Web historical past bites the mud.

Like many archives, Hobbes began as an FTP website. “The first distribution of recordsdata on the Web have been through FTP servers,” Scott tells Ars Technica. “And as FTP servers went down, they might even be mirrored as subdirectories in different FTP servers. Firms like CDROM.COM / Walnut Creek turned methods to only get a CD-ROM of the gadgets, however they might typically make the info out there at to obtain.”

The Hobbes website is a priceless digital time capsule. You’ll be able to nonetheless discover the Prime 50 Downloads web page, which incorporates sound and picture editors, and OS/2 builds of the Thunderbird e mail shopper. The archive comprises 1000’s of OS/2 video games, purposes, utilities, software program improvement instruments, documentation, and server software program relationship again to the launch of OS/2 in 1987. There is a sure allure in operating throughout OS/2 wallpapers from 1990, and even the archive’s Replace Coverage is a historic gem—final up to date on March 12, 1999.

The legacy of OS/2

The final major IBM release of OS/2, Warp version 4.0, as seen running in an emulator.
Enlarge / The ultimate main IBM launch of OS/2, Warp model 4.0, as seen operating in an emulator.

OS/2 started as a three way partnership between IBM and Microsoft, undertaken as a deliberate substitute for IBM PC DOS (additionally known as “MS-DOS” within the kind bought by Microsoft for PC clones). Regardless of superior capabilities like 32-bit processing and multitasking, OS/2 later competed with and struggled to realize traction in opposition to Home windows. The partnership between IBM and Microsoft dissolved after the success of Home windows 3.0, resulting in divergent paths in OS methods for the 2 corporations.

By way of iterations just like the Warp sequence, OS/2 established a key presence in area of interest markets that required excessive stability, akin to ATMs and the New York subway system. At the moment, its legacy continues in specialised purposes and in newer variations (like eComStation) maintained by third-party distributors—regardless of being overshadowed within the broader market by Linux and Home windows.

A footprint like that’s price preserving, and a lack of one among OS/2’s major archives, even when mirrored elsewhere, is a cultural blow. Apparently, Hobbes has reportedly virtually disappeared earlier than however acquired a keep of execution. Within the feedback part for an article on The Register, somebody named “TrevorH” wrote, “This isn’t the primary time that Hobbes has introduced it is going away. Final time it was rescued after loads of complaints and quite a few college students or school got here ahead to proceed to take care of it.”

As the ultimate shutdown approaches in April, the legacy of Hobbes is a reminder of the significance of preserving the digital heritage of software program for future generations—in order that many years from now, historians can look again and see how issues acquired to the place they’re at the moment.

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