In a single motion marking 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 greater than three a long time, the Archive has been an vital 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 to The Register, an NMSU consultant wrote: “We’ve got made the tough determination to not host these recordsdata at hobbes.nmsu.edu. Whereas I can not go into particulars, we needed to consider our priorities and make the tough determination to discontinue the service.”
Hobbes is hosted by the Division of Data and Communications 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 can be retired and not obtainable. As of April 15, 2024, this web site will not exist.”
We contacted New Mexico State College to inquire concerning the historical past of the Hobbes Archives, however acquired no response. The primary point out we’ve got discovered of the Hobbes Archive on-line is that this 1992 Walnut Creek CD-ROM assortment, which collected the archive’s contents for offline distribution. With an age of not less than 32 years, Hobbes is among the oldest software program archives on the Web, corresponding to the archives of the College of Michigan and the ibiblio at UNC.
Archivists equivalent to Jason Scott of the Web Archive have stated that the recordsdata hosted on Hobbes are safe and already mirrored elsewhere. “No one has to fret about Hobbes, I obtained Hobbes taken care of,” Scott wrote about Mastodon in early January. OS/2 World.com additionally revealed an announcement on how you can make a mirror. But it surely’s nonetheless outstanding when 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 recordsdata on the Web was by FTP servers,” Scott tells Ars Technica. And when FTP servers went down, they had been additionally mirrored as subdirectories on different FTP servers. Firms like CDROM.COM/Walnut Creek grew to become methods to only get a CD-ROM with the gadgets, however they typically made the info obtainable on http://ftp.cdrom.com to obtain.”
The Hobbes web site is a useful 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 electronic mail shopper. The archive comprises hundreds of OS/2 video games, purposes, utilities, software program growth instruments, documentation, and server software program relationship again to OS/2’s launch in 1987. There is a sure appeal in looking by 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 type bought by Microsoft for PC clones). Regardless of superior capabilities equivalent to 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 diverging paths within the two corporations’ working system methods.
By iterations such because the Warp sequence, OS/2 established a big presence in area of interest markets that required excessive stability, equivalent to ATMs and the New York subway system. As we speak, its legacy continues in specialised purposes and in newer variations (equivalent to eComStation) maintained by third-party distributors, regardless of being overshadowed within the broader market by Linux and Home windows.
Such a footprint is value preserving, and the 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 was granted a keep of execution. Within the feedback part of an article on The Register, somebody named “TrevorH” wrote: “This is not the primary time Hobbes has introduced it is going away. The final time it was saved after many complaints and numerous college students or school members. got here ahead to proceed implementing it.”
As the ultimate closure approaches in April, Hobbes’ legacy is a reminder of the significance of preserving software program’s digital legacy for future generations – in order that historians can look again a long time from now and see how issues obtained to the place they’re immediately.
This story initially appeared on Ars Technica.