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One of many Web’s Oldest Software program Archives Is Shutting Down


In a transfer that marks the top of an period, New Mexico State College (NMSU) lately introduced the approaching closure of its Hobbes OS/2 Archive on April 15, 2024. For over three a long time, 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 a press release made to The Register, a consultant of NMSU wrote, “We have now 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 Data & 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 probably be decommissioned and can not be obtainable. As of April fifteenth, 2024, this web site 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 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 reminiscent of Jason Scott of the Web Archive have stepped as much as say that the information hosted on Hobbes are secure and already mirrored elsewhere. “No one ought to fear about Hobbes, I’ve received Hobbes dealt with,” wrote Scott on Mastodon in early January. OS/2 World.com additionally revealed a press release about making a mirror. But it surely’s nonetheless notable every time such an previous and vital piece of web historical past bites the mud.

Like many archives, Hobbes began as an FTP web site. “The first distribution of information on the web had been through FTP servers,” Scott tells Ars Technica. “And as FTP servers went down, they’d even be mirrored as subdirectories in different FTP servers. Firms like CDROM.COM / Walnut Creek grew to become methods to only get a CD-ROM of the gadgets, however they’d typically make the information obtainable at http://ftp.cdrom.com to obtain.”

The Hobbes web site 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 accommodates hundreds of OS/2 video games, purposes, utilities, software program improvement instruments, documentation, and server software program courting 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 Replace Coverage 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 alternative for IBM PC DOS (additionally referred to as “MS-DOS” within the kind offered 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 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.

Via iterations just like the Warp collection, OS/2 established a key presence in area of interest markets that required excessive stability, reminiscent of ATMs and the New York subway system. At present, 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 nearly disappeared earlier than however obtained 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 quite a lot 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 a long time from now, historians can look again and see how issues received to the place they’re at present.

This story initially appeared on Ars Technica.

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