Hobbes OS/2 Archive, one of the internet’s oldest software archives, is shutting down

New Mexico State University (NMSU) recently declared the imminent closure of the Hobbes OS/2 Archive on April 15, 2024, signifying the end of a digital era.

The archive has played a pivotal role for over three decades, serving as a crucial resource for users of the IBM OS/2 operating system and its successors, which once competed fiercely with Microsoft Windows.

In an official statement provided to The Register, an NMSU representative explained the difficult decision to discontinue hosting the files on hobbes.nmsu.edu, citing a need to reassess priorities. Hobbes, hosted by the Department of Information & Communication Technologies at NMSU in Las Cruces, New Mexico, will be decommissioned and cease to exist after April 15th, 2024.

The Hobbes archive, dating back at least 32 years, stands as one of the oldest software archives on the internet, alongside notable counterparts like the University of Michigan’s archives and ibiblio at UNC. Despite inquiries about its history going unanswered, archivists such as Jason Scott have reassured that files hosted on Hobbes are secure and already mirrored elsewhere.

Originally an FTP site, Hobbes has evolved into a priceless digital time capsule, housing a diverse array of OS/2 games, applications, utilities, and software development tools dating back to OS/2’s launch in 1987. The archive reflects the legacy of OS/2, a joint venture between IBM and Microsoft, which, despite facing challenges from Windows, found a niche in specialized markets like ATMs and the New York subway system.

The impending closure prompts reflection on the broader need to preserve digital heritage, ensuring the availability of crucial archives for future generations. Despite previous announcements of closure, the final shutdown of Hobbes in April serves as a poignant reminder of the ongoing importance of safeguarding the digital history of software for posterity.

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