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Installing Debian Linux 2.0 (1998) (debian.org)
82 points by voltagex_ 54 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 82 comments

So here's what installing Debian was like in 1998.

Short of going to a first-tier University AND having a campus job that allowed you near the ethernet jacks, you were either going to spend weeks downloading disk images over your 38.4 kbps modem, or you were going to buy a collection of Linux distributions + the Sunsite archive on a 5-cd set that was released quarterly and available at computer stores.

Assuming that your CDROM spoke standard ATAPI instead of some weird hooks-up-to-a-soundcard interface from 1994, you probably had to create a floppy boot disk by dd'ing it off the cdrom, as your BIOS was 50/50 able to support the El Torito extensions that allowed a CDROM to boot the computer.

The dialog-based installer wasn't too different from now, IIRC. I think it was Debian that had options for installing from not just floppy and ftp, but NFS as well.

Once the machine was booted, you hoped to see "LILO" was successfully installed to bootsector and you could choose which OS to boot. If LILO didn't install right, it would just present "LI" and a blinking cursor. If you still had DOS on the machine, the recourse was to use a DOS floppy boot disk and use the undocumented "fdisk /mbr" command to put a normal DOS boot sector back on your hard drive.

Once the machine was up, you most likely had to get PPP working with your modem. Hopefully you had an external modem. Minicom was close enough to Telix that you'd use that to make sure that AT commands were making it to the modem, and then you went down the rabbit hole from there.

Getting X working sucked. I think by 1998 there was a helper script for generating your XFree86 conf, but even that would most likely require some hand-tweaks. If at this point you had your modem working you could at least get online with PPP or even just a plain shell account to start searching DejaNews for hints on how to get that working.

dselect was awesome, it felt like being connected to the world's hugest BBS, where you were guaranteed that every piece of software in the archive would work on your machine.

Now you're a few days in: You've got X working (probably at a wonky refresh rate), you can connect to the Internet (when your ISP has an open line and you aren't hitting a busy signal) and you've got Netscape installed. Getting your soundcard working is probably still a week off.

I got started in 2007 when I was in high school, as I was stuck using Windows XP on my Pentium 3 computer. I stumbled on Ubuntu, and they would send you CDs for free. Installation was probably easier than Windows, and I think the hardest part was getting drivers for modem, cell phone internet (GPRS?), printers, and later WiFi working. Haven't looked back since! Still thankful to Canonical for sending out that free disk to my home. I used that computer for next 2 years, during which time my interest in computers probably got twofold (alternatively, had I stuck with Windows in that PC, I may have lost interest with frustration). Twelve years since, seen Linux grow so much over these years, and I still prefer to use it for my personal computing needs.

Thanks for reminding me of these! I remember when they announced shipit. I think I was in middle school and got them shipped to my parents house because they were free and why not. I lived in a rural area and didn't have broadband yet. I can thank those CDs for kindling my love of programming and Linux. Thanks Canonical!

I found shipit so amazing. I went there to order like 5 discs and the form came back saying that hey, actually the discs are pretty cheap and our main cost is postage per shipping unit so why don't you order like 15 more just in case? :-)

Booting could be an adventure. It helped tremendously to know that the LILO printed to the console at boot was itself a diagnostic, with the first 'L' indicating that the first-stage loader had been invoked from the MBR, and the 'I' that the second-stage loader was successfully invoked. Further error codes and behaviours generally indicated specific problems.

I'm having trouble finding diagnostic docs (understandably as LILO was deprecated over a decade ago), but the lilo(8) manpage has some details:


As for installing Linux in 1998: I'd first installed Red Hat out of a CDROM from a book, and trialed Debian for the first time using a downloaded Potato (2.2) boot image -- the last installer that fit on a single floppy as I recall.

Instructions for a chroot install based on that were published soon afterwards.

Similar experience though it differed in the details. Downloaded disks from the internet at work. Never had problems with IDE CDROM or booting. Those parts easy.

Getting X or sound working, incredibly hard. Scary warnings about frying the monitor and manually writing "modelines."

I remember wasting an entire weekend, morning until night tinkering with zero progress to show for it. After about a week you'd give up and accept that you made "this much" progress, and would never go further. At least until the next major version came out with improved drivers.

Believe I tried the Caldera (or Mandrake?) linux in the late 90s and it was easier to install.

Caldera was the one with the graphical installer where you could play Tetris. I believe Mandrake was the one that was very similar to Red Hat (back around RH 5.2) but I remember it being a little easier to get working.

X was difficult. I remember sound being fairly easy if you had a sound blaster or turtle beach. The modem and PPP was where I always got hung up. I finally bought an external modem and that made things much easier.

Hmm, I didn't remember using PPP or a modem. Now, I remember why.

At work we had a LAN. At home I had a Windows 98 box that talked to the internal modem and dialed up, which routed to a special orange ethernet cable with the wires crossed to an emachines box in the second bedroom. That one had dual boot linux on it for tinkering and thought it was directly on the internet. Good times.

Installing Mandrake 9.2 (2003?) was in many respects better than installing Windows XP. The graphic installer was incredibly smooth, it had a real integrated partition manager (something that looked like Paragon PM), and a much more accurate estimate of expected time. If you had old enough hardware, everything would just work perfectly. I still have fond memories of Mandrake.

For Red Hat the big jump was with version 6.0. The earlier release, 5.2, still had the text based installer. But still, I do remember looking up the horizontal and vertical frequencies in my monitor's manual :)

> you probably had to create a floppy boot disk by dd'ing it off the cdrom, as your BIOS was 50/50 able to support the El Torito extensions that allowed a CDROM to boot the computer.

I've got mine framed beside my desk[1]. For some reason I printed a label for the disk - it's dated 11/12/1999, what blows my mind is that at that time I'd only just turned 13 years old!

While I was a very smart kid I think whoever wrote the documentation back then to guide me through the process must have been quite incredible, or maybe it was just a better culture of documentation than we have today. I spent so much time reading TLDP that when I forget Bash's if syntax I remember the table from this page[2] before I even think of Google.

I would have been dual booting when I made that disk but after the Windows XP announcement my 14 year old self decided if I don't take the plunge now "I'll be seduced by Micro$oft's shiny new toys and assimilated by Bill Gateus of Borg" so sometime in spring 2001 I switched entirely to Linux and never looked back. At that time switching entirely was stupid and, frankly, masochistic but I'm VERY glad I did it.

[1] https://imgur.com/VHv8mzI

[2] http://tldp.org/LDP/Bash-Beginners-Guide/html/sect_07_01.htm...

> buy a collection of Linux distributions + the Sunsite archive on a 5-cd set that was released quarterly and available at computer stores.

I don't remember those collections, but I do remember boxed commercial distributions being sold at CompUSA, such as Red Hat, Mandrake, SuSE, and Corel.

> The dialog-based installer wasn't too different from now, IIRC.

From what I remember, they completely rewrote the installer with Sarge. I don't remember what the old one was like, though.

Thanks for the trip down memory lane!

I have a few of them in a box somewhere.


Here is a link to the first Linux I encountered that had this CD setup: Yggdrasil. The installation notes show what hardware was required [0]. I remember figuring out how to install Linux from these CDs only to say — what now? Strangely, the version that I remember trying was the 1993 release that is pictured on the wikipedia page[1].

This link is from a few years before the Debian described in the OP, but it was about the same scenario. But either way, these were way before the commercial boxed Linux OSs were available. And this was still back in the day when having CDROMs pressed and shipped was still more efficient and cheaper than online access.

[0] https://www.linux.co.cr/distributions/review/1995/0920-a.htm...

[1] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yggdrasil_Linux/GNU/X

I remember it included both a floppy disk and a diskette, so you could choose a suitable one for your system to boot from, and continue with the CDROM. (a 1x speed Mitsumi drive with manual sled loading[0] at the time)

Booting directly from CDROM media wasn't even available until mid-90ies if I recall correctly.

[0] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CUBeHWVHh9U

I got started with Linux in 2007. Only internet I had in 2007 was a terribly unreliable dial-up and GPRS on my mobile. I was able to install a torrent app on my Symbian N80 which allowed me to download ~700mb Ubuntu images. It took 2-3 days for the downloads to finish and I'd leave my phone plugged in most of the time. That year was probably the most fun I've had with computers. Linux desktop was buzzing with things like Beryl and Compiz back then.

Amazing, how do you remember all that? It was similar for me as well.

I heard a piece on NPR on Linux. I had played with Dos for Dummies and got my parents to buy a copy of Suse 5. After a harrowing 6 hour installation process on my parent's 33MHz 386, I needed the discard rescue floppy to recover the Windows boot.

I would've been a programmer at that age but lacked mentor/support.

I've used Debian pretty much every day since the first day I installed it, which helps.

do you upgrade from major versions (e.g. 7 -> 8) via reinstall or their in-place process? I've seen some burned by the latter. Maybe you've got 7 partitions instead of 1, like those who paid attention to partitioning advice?

Personally I do upgrade-in-place -- my main home machine is an in-place upgrade from its original install of Debian 0.93r6 back in 1996 or so (with different hardware now, of course). Some upgrades have been hairier than others, but fixing up any fallout has always been much easier than doing a clean install, restoring user data and trying to recreate all the configuration tweaks.

Crossgrading from i386 to x86-64 was a particular bear, and I have vague memories that the a.out to ELF transition might have been awkward too...

> my main home machine is an in-place upgrade from its original install of Debian 0.93r6 back in 1996 or so.

That's absolutely marvellous.

My Mac is 12 years worth of installs of betas, upgrades, etc

Years ago I would upgrade-in-place, now I don't bother.

Were you using "old" hardware in '98? I installed Redhat around then and it wasn't very painful. I don't recall bumping into any issues.

In '98 I grabbed a TNT video card the first week it came out and it gave me no trouble. (No idea about Voodoo though.) I also had a CD burner and a DVD drive, but I don't remember if I could boot directly off of CD in '98 or I needed a floppy disk. I think in '98 you could boot off of a CD directly. Oh and by 2001 I had fiber internet, which isn't that far out.

Anyways, your story sounds like how it was in '94 and earlier. I'd dial in to the local edu to get online. The internet was painfully slow. I'd run out of ram so I created a bootup floppy to boot directly into the game bypassing Win 3.11. When Windows 95 and Doom came out it was such a game changer. Though, I still have a fondness for old 80s Mac classic games like Crystal Quest and Return to Dark Castle.

I was buying nothing the-week-it-came-out in 1998.

As late as 2003-2004 I was still hand writing X configs, Debian wouldn't produce a working X Config out of the box

Editing X configs was how a lot of people got started with VIM

The first time I installed Debian was 2002, and I hit X config issues. I eventually got it working, but I swore off the Linux desktop because of it.

Truth. The saving grace to achieve further progress when stuck in PPP/modem hell was discovering WvDial on Debian. Quite literally cut out all of the noise.

I recall the one of the early Linux distributions I tried had a funky X Server of sorts. I think it was Metro-X or similar to this: https://www.linuxjournal.com/article/2299 Bask in the beauty of those xlib/Motif widgets. This was an absolute saviour until I got a more "normal" video card.

And Winmodems! You're taking me back, man.

I got started with Linux in 1996 (first Slackware, then Debian later that year), and all I had was dial-up access and floppies. I certainly didn't spend weeks downloading disk images. But then, having no way to burn CD-ROMs, I wasn't downloading CD-ROM ISOs. I'd just download the floppy disk images I needed to do the install, let the installer download the rest via FTP if the distro supported that over PPP, and then download software as needed afterward. dselect really was great, and then apt-get was awesome.

Postgres came with those Sunsite Archives, found one from 1996. Interesting selection of software https://www.ibiblio.org/pub/historic-linux/ftp-archives/suns...

University Ingres preceded Postgres. Hence the "post". https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ingres_(database)

Oh I'm familiar with Actian, went down that rabbithole reading the history of Postgres a while back. It's owned by an Indian company now.

Yup, I remember the excitation after buying a debian distro and receiving a ton of CDs by mail with the freshly released Debian Woody. It was defiant to raise X and noticed soon that had bought an accelerated intensive training in computers. Lots of esotheric things that would fail sometimes and many new concepts: Lilo, partitions, fdisk, no internet connection everywhere and hoarding deb packages in pendrives.

It came with a wonderful sense of adventure, defy and a chain of personal victories and achievement that would be not possible to experience currently by newer generations. Very well spent time in retrospective. Sometimes, is good to be a ram-level stubborn

I "borrowed" a debian potato CD from a professor's desk back in 2001. Our campus in Germany certainly was a perpetual construction site and certainly not first rate, but we had 10mbit switches and were connected to university fiber network, so I could download KDE at megabytes per second.

oh man, I so remember a lot of this. I started my Linux journey with RedHat 4.2 that I bought from Hastings (Music/Video/Book store). I remember minicom and typing ATDT and the number of my ISP to get the modem to dial, then once connected, that was only half the battle, you had to exit minicom and run some 'ppp' script. I also remember the LI.. of LILO not loading .. and yes 'xf86config' helper script.

I'm actually so glad I had all the weird quirks of the 'early' linux days to work with, like compiling your own kernel to get some PCI or ISA card to work .. if I had not been tinkering all those nights I don't know what line of work I would have gone into ..

I simply downloaded a netinstall, and used the awesome A2000 connection

Don't forget all the fun with IRQ and address settings for network (and other) cards, and boot args.

Absolutely, I remember that until you could pass IO port, DMA and IRQ settings for things like Soundblaster cards on the kernel command line from LILO, it was essential to recompile your kernel with these settings specified in the kernel config. Compiling drivers for network cards and Soundblaster as kernel modules was error prone, and it often would only work if the driver was compiled directly into the kernel proper.

I don't think this situation improved until the PnP and PCI busses arrived.

Slackware was the distro I finally settled on from the Infomagic CD set, since some of the early Redhat and Debian releases were broken, they would install to the hard drive and then not boot.

I remember slackware being 13 3.5"/1.44Mb floppy disks, with perhaps some smaller minimal install collection. Somewhere near 1992? (Completely from memory, perhaps I'm off)

There was also the fun part about compiling the mouse drivers

Well, it boots up in QEMU. I believe my first install of Debian was woody, or Debian 3.

'If your monitor displays color, please select "Color" here.'

edit: Hard drive partitioned; we're formatting as ext2 now.

The installer is remarkably like modern Debian.

edit: Still churning; perhaps my 8GiB partition was rather overkill ;)




8 character root password:


got me a dpkg:


I'm installing the sysadmin 'selection' ... we're getting Python 1.5 :D



I didn't want me no damned GUI! Mouse is broken!

Update: I'm in, I have vim, loopback, a user account, but no network interface. Another time. :)

>Disable any virus-warning features your BIOS may provide. If you have a virus-protection board or other special hardware, make sure it is disabled or physically removed while running Linux. These aren't compatible with Linux, and Linux has a better method of protecting you from viruses.

The BIOS feature is presumably referring to boot sector virus protection that old BIOSes used to have that made them read-only. But what are "virus-protection boards" ? The only search results with quotes are for variants of that page, and searching without quotes gives too many irrelevant results.

Must mean something like https://www.asus.com/Motherboard-Accessories/TPM-M-R2-0/ e.g. before IME and so on were built in, you could add them as extras.

That's a TPM. Not sure what you mean by "IME", but TPMs both still exist and did not exist in 1998. They also don't have anything to do with virus scanning.

Right, it was just a guess. I was using Linux professionally in 1998 and I have never heard of a virus scanning board. Not sure I used Debian before 2001 though.

Yes, looks like it. More information about that is at https://www.virusbulletin.com/uploads/pdf/magazine/1991/1991... (page 21)

There were hardware ISA boards that purported to provide boot-sector protection e.g. ThunderByte Antivirus which I found from a Google search: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ThunderByte_Antivirus

Oh those were the days.

Related: "Installing Linux on a Dead Badger" (2004)


Ah, "winmodems." I think the final boss of my ca. 1999 Red Hat install was a winmodem.

Yea getting winmodems to work on Windows was a chore good luck anywhere else. The era of managing irq’s, jumpers for cpu clock multipliers, and if there was the tiny twist in middle of a floppy ribbon to make it bootable couldn’t end soon enough.

The twist was to determine which was the A and which was the B drive. IMO a lot nicer than the jumpers you had to set properly on both IDE drives.

Here's a few old Linux install-related Web pages:

* 1999 university lab/department-specific instructions for Red Hat: https://www.neilvandyke.org/lab-linux-1999/

* 2000 assembling PC with Linux-friendly components: https://www.neilvandyke.org/cheap-pc-2000/

* 2003 laptop-specific install instructions for Debian: https://www.neilvandyke.org/linux-thinkpad-560e/

One thing I notice in the 1999 one is that, although I was already interested in privacy&security, I was pretty cavalier about where I got RPMs. Maybe it was hard to imagine that anything Linux could be evil?

This mildly reminds me of the early 2000s when I first got introduced to Linux and my friend guided me through installing Gentoo over TeamSpeak for the first time. That was a productive 6 hours!

Fast forward to 2019 and now you can click a button on DigitalOcean's site and have Debian 10 running in about 30 seconds.

> You must have at least 4MB of RAM and 40MB of hard disk

When the world made sense...

It would have been around this time - 97/98 - that I first set up Red Hat 4 as a dual boot with Windows 95. No hoops to run through, really, except endless fiddling with PPP to get some sort of internet connection. The thing came on a magazine cd-rom, and as my pc either didn't do cd-booting or I didn't know it did, I had to cook a couple of floppies from provided images, presumably using my beloved Disk Copy Fast. Download was out of the question. Largest thing I did in that respect back then was StarOffice - a whooping 52 Mb package which took five or six hours, done at night when phone rates were lower.

Later, I got rid of the Windows partition...

Debian in 1998? Try the fall 1994 Yggdrasil Linux in 1995 then:) The CD (bought in a store, only copy available) was damaged out of the box in a subtle way so that it started spitting errors over one hour after the installation began when I was very likely in front of the third coffee. But the installation continued somehow, so in the end the system sorta worked but I had problems everywhere and no books, no Usenet, no Internet to ask for advice, just a local BBS I couldn't connect to anyway because that half working PC was the only hardware at disposal. This is what kept me back like 2 more years before trying Linux again (Red Hat).

Somewhat disappointed this isn't about installing and using Debian Linux 2.0 on a PC now 2 decades later, and comparing it to the experience of a modern Debian. I'd even watch a video (does LGR know anything about Linux?).

Another thing I am curious about is the section about system requirements. How much disk space would be necessary for a full installation of literally every possible package in Debian 10?

I've been installing Debian since rougly 1998, with separate partitions for most major filesystems. My last /usr partition was 20 GB, and that's no longer sufficient for a generous (though far from complete) Debian install.

The last package count I made of unstable was over 70,000 distinct software packages. I think stable is well below that, though probably north of 40k.

A "full" installation is not possible as many packages mutually conflict. Though it wouldn't surprise me if a maximal install of software alone would be well over 100 GB.

Much of the growth has come in support libraries, especially internationalisation. For a while there was a package which would go through, post-install, and remove unneeded translations and charactersets.

> The last package count I made of unstable was over 70,000 distinct software packages. I think stable is well below that, though probably north of 40k.

For others, like me, interested in this you can grab a txt/JSON package list for mangling locally[1].

With the data I have grabbed it is 65k vs 57k.

> Though it wouldn't surprise me if a maximal install of software alone would be well over 100 GB.

A rough estimate[2] of just ``main`` on Buster:

  $ awk -F: '/^Installed-Size/ {print $2}' /var/lib/apt/lists/*buster_main* | numsum
1. https://packages.debian.org/stable/ - Scroll to the bottom for links

2. https://www.debian.org/doc/debian-policy/ch-controlfields.ht...

That's installed size in kB, correct? So, 273 GB, more or less, for "main".

"Well over 100 GB" ;-)

There is even talk on supporting packages that are larger than 10GB[1], so three or four hundred gigabytes might be passed quicker than we'd think...

1. https://lwn.net/Articles/789449/ - Gives a little information if you scan for "size"

Kudos for numsum!

After so many years using Linux, I still missed that one. Thanks!

Why is there such a big difference in the number of packages in stable and unstable? I always thought that stable was mostly just a snapshot of the testing branch, and that everything in unstable would make into testing before the freeze period.

First, don't take my counts as gospel.

.... lessee ... OK, the Debian 10 ("buster") release notes give "over 59,000 other packages" (in addition to a dozen or so listed), so it's about 10k that didn't make the stable release.


Only software with no release-critical bugs is included in the release, and with 70k+ packages in total, it's not surprising that some (mostly more obscure / unmaintained / or recently developed, I'd suspect) don't make the release cut.

Debian also makes a practice of splitting out source packages ("over 29,000") into release packages, along arbitrary divisions such as: core vs. additional / support packages, base and dev, debug (unstripped and debugging compiliation options left in), documentation, and increasingly, various language support. So a single upstream could conceivably result in numerous Debian releases. Development tools are especially prone to this, see Python, Perl, R, etc., as examples.

This allows for modularlity and precision in package selection, smaller installations, and choices in performance vs. diagnostics (debug) options. Pared-down systems can be configured without documentation packages, a fat desktop can be configured with full docs and support.

Incidentally, the integrated support and DWWW package (Debian-WWW project) make your system effectively self-documenting via a local webserver, which can be extremely helpful.

Similarly, each installed package creates an entry in /usr/share/doc/<packagename>, without the idiotic version number Red Hat adds (frustrating the ability to link directly to package docs without knowing the specific version number).

It's even possible to reconstruct the package set of a corrupted Debian system from that list:


Public examples used to be easier to find, this one turns up searching "powered by dwww version":


I first installed SLS Linux in 1992. It came as floppy disk images on a CD-ROM. I installed it on my girlfriend's new 386 computer, which had a monster 10MB hard disk. It booted up to the text console. I logged in, typed ls, was happy it looked like the Sun machines I had used in college. Then deleted it because she needed the space for DOS, Lotus 123, dBase IV, and WordPerfect.

I used Solaris, HP/UX, AIX, etc in my day job. I used to try to install Debian on my new computers and fail because the kernel on the installer CD was too old to support the latest chips. Finally I switched my desktop to RedHat Linux in the late 90s.

For a while, I ran Gentoo, which meant compiling everything from scratch as part of the installation process. One day for everything up to text mode, then another day to get KDE running.

I got my Debian from a CDROM packed with PC Magazine back in 1998.

Unfortunately the disk was scratched and the installation was failing at the unpacking of one the deb packages.

I had no knowledge in tech other than some turbo pascal and ms dos batches scripting skills. I had no internet connection (it was too expensively). I had to do installation dual boot, to preserve the ms dos partition for the job of parents. I had almost zero knowledge in English. My PC was 4 years old 386dx with 4mb of ram.

However I did had spare summer vacation time at disposal. It took every third evening this summer but just before school I was able to hack the installation to skip the bad debs and boot into the New magical OS.

And then yet another adventure of configuring the new world called Linux stared.

I started tinkering with linux the same year but with Mandrake instead. It felt just like the beginning of the web, some kind of far west where anything was possible, with no clear tracks to follow.

A couple years after this, you could buy a Redhat CD off the shelf at Best Buy, and if you had popular or generic hardware, it would pretty much install. And a few years after that, Mandrake or Corel Linux booted from a CD and had great graphics and everything.

By the time I got back to Debian, it was for servers. Netinstalls were compact and awesome!

And then Ubuntu came out and blew everyone's mind, how complete it was installed just off the CD. Even the idiots could install it then.

> you were going to buy a collection of Linux distributions + the Sunsite archive on a 5-cd set that was released quarterly and available at computer stores.

I ordered debian potato (debian 2.2 / August 2000) as CD Sets via a german book store. Came with an OKish book. I distinctly remember that the SuSe book was better and i was really glad when i got a old SuSe manual from someone who upgraded his machine and got a new manual along with the 10 CDs.

Great times.

I got started with Linux in that year. I think I did red hat 5.1 and then Debian 2.0. A few years later I tried openbsd 2.6.

The distros were too big for dialup, and Red Hat was charging a lot (or seemed like it for free software) for CDs in a fancy retail box. But there was a website "cheap bytes" that would burn CDs of distros for about $2.

I remember my apt-get dist-upgrade to Debian 2.1 because it took forever on dialup.

My very first book that I begged my mother to buy for me was Debian GNU/Linux bible with a Debian 2.2 CD.

Debian was great for a long time but since 2014 I've been a RedHat convert using CentOS and Fedora where applicable. I firmly believe them to be better than Debian or Ubuntu. Partly because I made the effort to learn things like SElinux and iptables.

Unfortunately the oldest version available seems to be 3.0, though there was a mention about 2.0 https://cdimage.debian.org/mirror/cdimage/archive/

It would be interesting to test such an old version for historical purposes

I did something similar earlier this year: I installed modern Debian on a PII machine from 1998. Turns out those are the oldest "modern" x86 chips supported by Debian. The only special thing I had to do was install it to the disk in a VM because I didn't have a way to boot from a CD on that computer.

> If you have a virus-protection board or other special hardware

I've heard of all sorts of esoteric PC hardware, but I've never heard of hardware anti-virus boards.

Anyone know more about these? A web search hasnt produced anything useful.

Hard to track down, but this could have referred to something like this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ThunderByte_Antivirus

Tried installing my first Linux distribution, Slackware (3.4) in 1997. It worked. I deleted the only partition on that 630MB Seagate drive, and wondered why Windows wouldn't boot anymore.

I came to Debian slightly later than 98, but memories of the floppy net install image fill me with joy. A whole OS bootstrapped from a 1.44MB medium was very cool.

2 years later, Knoppix (one of the first popular live CD distros, based on Debian) made it much easier for people to experience Linux.

It's interesting that the very first thing in the page is a section on copyrights, free software and the Debian Social Contract.

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