One of the Internet’s Oldest Software Archives Is Shutting Down

One of the Internet’s Oldest Software Archives Is Shutting Down Leave a comment

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 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 have now made the troublesome resolution to now not host these information on Though I’m unable to enter specifics, we needed to consider our priorities and needed to make the troublesome resolution 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 positioning reads, “After a few years of service, might be decommissioned and can now not be out there. As of April fifteenth, 2024, this website will now 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 document 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 At round 32 years outdated, minimal, that makes Hobbes one of many oldest software program archives on the web, akin to the University of Michigan’s archives and ibiblio at UNC.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 resembling 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 one ought to fear about Hobbes, I’ve obtained Hobbes dealt with,” wrote Scott on Mastodon in early January. OS/2 additionally published a statement about making a mirror. Nevertheless it’s nonetheless notable at any time when such an outdated and necessary piece of web historical past bites the mud.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 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 turned methods to simply get a CD-ROM of the gadgets, however they’d typically make the info out there at to obtain.”

The Hobbes website is a priceless digital time capsule. You possibly can nonetheless discover the Top 50 Downloads page, which incorporates sound and picture editors, and OS/2 builds of the Thunderbird electronic mail consumer. The archive accommodates 1000’s of OS/2 video games, functions, utilities, software program growth instruments, documentation, and server software program courting again to the launch of OS/2 in 1987. There is a sure appeal in working 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 alternative for IBM PC DOS (additionally referred to as “MS-DOS” within the type 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 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 firms.

By means of iterations just like the Warp series, OS/2 established a key presence in area of interest markets that required excessive stability, resembling ATMs and the New York subway system. Right this moment, its legacy continues in specialised functions 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 considered one of OS/2’s main 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 numerous complaints and a lot of college students or school got here ahead to proceed to keep up 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 obtained to the place they’re at present.

This story initially appeared on Ars Technica.

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