March 4, 2024

Why Hobbes OS/2 is shutting down and what it means for the future of Internet files

Key takeaways

  • The Hobbes OS/2 archive, one of the oldest archives on the Internet, will close in a few months.
  • The Internet Archive and OS2world.com are working to back up the archive and ensure its preservation, but a staple of IBM OS/2 history will be closed forever.
  • Publicly funded archives such as Hobbes OS/2 are crucial to preserving the history of the Internet, and the closure highlights the vulnerability of such resources.



Before Microsoft’s Windows became the default operating system for PC users, there was IBM’s OS/2. It was designed for release alongside IBM’s “Personal System”, which was expected to be a worthy follow-up to the Personal Computer. At the time, everyone copied the PC and Microsoft licensed its software to whoever it could. With OS/2 software and the PS/2 computer, IBM wanted to create something that couldn’t be copied.


While it is true that OS/2 competed with Windows at one point, there is only one operating system that survives today. Now, the OS/2 operating system and related iterations are stored in the Hobbes OS/2 archive at New Mexico State University. Is he place to review IBM’s rich OS/2 history and access archived software. Archives like these keep old software accessible to enthusiasts and historians alike. Hobbes OS/2 is far from the only legacy software archive in existence; The Macintosh repository is one such source of obsolete Macintosh software.

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However, the Hobbes OS/2 archive will be closed in a few months and all of its data will be effectively destroyed, at least in its current state according to NMSU. Here’s what’s happening, what’s being done to preserve OS/2 software, and why the shutdown is a bad precedent for Internet archives.


Why is the OS/2 Hobbes file closed?

After more than three decades of operation, this archive only has a few months left

A screenshot of the Hobbes OS/2 file on the NMSU website.


When you visit the Hobbes OS/2 archive in 2024 (located at https://hobbes.nmsu.edu/), a new banner message appears. “After many years of service, hobbes.nmsu.edu will be decommissioned and will no longer be available,” the message reads. “You, the user, are responsible for downloading any of the files found in this archive if you desire them. These files will no longer be available for access or download as of the date of decommissioning.”


It’s difficult to determine how long the Hobbes OS/2 archive has been in service, but it spans at least more than three decades. CD-ROMs have been discovered containing Hobbes OS/2 software images dated 1992, so the file predates that date. This makes the Hobbes OS/2 archive one of the oldest Internet archives still in operation. There is a rich history surrounding not only the IBM OS/2 operating system, but also the related Hobbes OS/2 archive. It’s certainly disappointing to see a staple of Internet history disappear, especially one that dates back to the early days of the Internet.

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In a statement to The Register, a representative from the University of New Mexico provided an explanation for the closure of Hobbes OS/2.


We have made the difficult decision to no longer host these files on hobbes.nmsu.edu. Although I can’t go into the details, we had to evaluate our priorities and make the difficult decision to suspend service. We tried to choose a date far enough away to give the community time to gather the archives and find a new home. It’s been fascinating to see the stories people have shared about this server. The NMSU team you currently support [the] The server is doing its best to meet the needs of the community. We have provided additional resources to Hobbes as there was a clear increase in traffic following the announcement. If we have additional information, we will update Hobbes.nmsu.edu.


For what it’s worth, NMSU gave the Hobbes OS/2 community plenty of time to back up the file. It won’t go away until April 15, 2024, but the site will cease to exist after that date. Still, when a three-decade-old Internet archive disappears, it’s a reminder of how quickly some parts of the web can be shut down and lost forever.

What it means for other Internet files

Contingencies are already in place to ensure that Hobbes OS/2 is preserved

A screenshot of the Internet Archive.

Shortly after NMSU announced that Hobbes OS/2 would close in April, some notable faces in computing history pledged to preserve the archive. “No one should worry about Hobbes,” said Jason Scott, who works at the Internet Archive. “I’ve got Hobbes under control.”


Furthermore, the OS2world.com community published a press release a few days later explaining their plan to ensure that the OS/2 Hobbes archive survives. The site’s president, Roderick Klein, said he is in talks with NMSU to redirect the original Hobbes OS/2 file to os2site.com. Klein says that aside from people backing up the OS/2 Hobbes file, the Internet needs a central source for OS/2 software. In other words, a true replacement for the OS/2 Hobbes file.


For now, it does not appear that closing the Hobbes OS/2 archive will result in the loss of any portion of Internet history. In fact, the attention generated by the closure of Hobbes OS/2 will likely result in new work to preserve that history. We can see this in the steps that Internet Archive and OS2world.com have taken to back up the original Hobbes OS/2 archive. However, it is an indication that even the basic elements of the Internet are at risk of being shut down one day.

If publicly funded archives aren’t secure, what is?

It’s surprising how close pieces of computing history are to being lost forever.

Hobbes-OS-2-File-CD-ROM

There are many costs associated with keeping a software archive database up and running and that is why nonprofit entities often rely on donations and other sources of income to stay afloat. However, it’s disappointing to see a publicly funded database like Hobbes OS/2 shut down, as those are perhaps the most stable ways to preserve Internet history. On a larger scale, the US Library of Congress has maintained historical records for more than 200 years and, more recently, has archived the history of computers and the Internet. New Mexico State University is certainly a smaller institution, but it is supported by public funds that could have maintained the Hobbes OS/2 archive.


All of this means that passionate users are the last line of defense before parts of Internet and computer history disappear forever. We’re lucky that, in this case, entities like the Internet Archive and OS2world.com are here to fill the void that will be left when Hobbes OS/2 closes. While almost all of us use great PCs much better than anything from IBM’s OS/2 era, it’s important to keep things like the Hobbes OS/2 archive alive. One of the good ones will miss this April.

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