In a transfer that marks the tip of an period, New Mexico State College (NMSU) lately introduced the upcoming 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 operating system and its successors, which as soon as competed fiercely with Microsoft Home windows.
In a press release made to The Register, a consultant of NMSU wrote, “We now have made the troublesome determination to not host these information on hobbes.nmsu.edu. Though I’m unable to enter specifics, we needed to consider our priorities and needed to make the troublesome determination 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 location reads, “After a few years of service, hobbes.nmsu.edu will likely be decommissioned and can not be accessible. As of April fifteenth, 2024, this website will not exist.”
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 collection that gathered up the contents of the archive for offline distribution. At round 32 years outdated, minimal, that makes Hobbes one of many oldest software program archives on the web, akin to the University of Michigan’s archives and ibiblio at UNC.
Archivists similar to Jason Scott of the Web Archive have stepped as much as say that the information hosted on Hobbes are protected and already mirrored elsewhere. “No person ought to fear about Hobbes, I’ve bought Hobbes dealt with,” wrote Scott on Mastodon in early January. OS/2 World.com additionally published a statement about making a mirror. However it’s nonetheless notable each time such an outdated and essential piece of web historical past bites the mud.
Like many archives, Hobbes began as an FTP website. “The first distribution of information on the web have been by way of FTP servers,” Scott tells Ars Technica. “And as FTP servers went down, they’d even be mirrored as subdirectories in different FTP servers. Corporations like CDROM.COM / Walnut Creek turned methods to only get a CD-ROM of the objects, however they’d typically make the information accessible at http://ftp.cdrom.com to obtain.”
The Hobbes website is a priceless digital time capsule. You may nonetheless discover the Top 50 Downloads page, which incorporates sound and picture editors, and OS/2 builds of the Thunderbird e mail consumer. The archive accommodates 1000’s of OS/2 video games, purposes, utilities, software program growth instruments, documentation, and server software program relationship again to the launch of OS/2 in 1987. There is a sure attraction in operating throughout OS/2 wallpapers from 1990, and even the archive’s Update Policy is a historic gem—final up to date on March 12, 1999.
The legacy of OS/2
OS/2 started as a three way partnership between IBM and Microsoft, undertaken as a deliberate substitute for IBM PC DOS (additionally referred to 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 achieve traction towards Home windows. The partnership between IBM and Microsoft dissolved after the success of Windows 3.0, resulting in divergent paths in OS methods for the 2 corporations.
Via iterations just like the Warp series, OS/2 established a key presence in area of interest markets that required excessive stability, similar to ATMs and the New York subway system. At this time, 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 value preserving, and a lack of one among OS/2’s main archives, even when mirrored elsewhere, is a cultural blow. Apparently, Hobbes has reportedly nearly 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 plenty of complaints and numerous 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 bought to the place they’re right this moment.
This story initially appeared on Ars Technica.