Debian Turns 19


Moderati ergo sum
Way to make me feel old ;). I downloaded my first linux distro in the '90s over dial-up. That was fun (not). :D

Speed Daemon

Android Expert
You want to feel old? To me Debian is a relative (and somewhat unwelcome) newcomer to the Linux community. Back when I started using Linux there were still plenty of NetBSD-style "roll your own" instruction pages out there that told you how to make a Linux filesystem, copy the Linux kernel and other stuff onto it etc. Distributions like MCC and SLS and Yggdrasil were what passed for Linux distributions back then. Slackware was the only really user-friendly distro at the time, mainly because it consisted of many floppy disk images that, with the kelp of a small DOS (later Windows) utility called `makeflop' could be used to make a multitude of install disks. Back then most software was installed on floppy media; the CD-ROM drive was a pricey aftermarket product back then, and there wasn't much media to put in the drives either.

I can remember staying after office hours at work, using a half-dozen or so PCs with a DOS IP stack and Windows for Workgroups to download what were then massive files at 1.44MiB each, using the T-1 line we had. I'd start a FTP session with (remember them?) on a machine, move to the next and start another session for the next image, and continue on in round robin fashion until I had downloaded the whole set. Then I'd go around the same PCs, writing the raw disk images to my collection of cast-away floppies.

Because I was poor but honest back then, I rarely had enough new blank floppies to make a full install set, and since one bad sector could corrupt the entire set (a, ap, d etc.), I often found myself writing to one good disk, using it to install Slackware, taking it to a spare PC for a full reformat (to make sure it still had all good sectors), then downloading the next image. This was before AOL made free floppies ubiquitous--remember that? I felt like a king when I had saved enough money to buy 3 10-disk boxes of new blank no-name floppies to keep an entire Slackware install disk set on!

Why was Debian unwelcome? At the time, UC Berkeley; Computer Systems Research group was shutting down, and in order to make its suite of UNIX


Android Expert
Thread starter
When I first started using Linux, after initially using Caldera Linux, it seems Debian and Slackware were the only distros I was able to install. All the other so-called easy distros that I tried would not install on my hardware. This was around late 1990s.