My first experience with linux – 1998 – tomsrtbt

Linux! Slackware floppies! zip-slack! Redhat 5.2! Tomsrtbt! Downloading zip-slack over modem for a week. Getting a shell and thinking ‘wtf’ trying dos commands. Having to reboot to read documentation! Trying random commands. Learning that xemacs needs x to run. Wtf is x?

I was now at university. it was 1998. I was 17 years old. im 29 now. studying electronic engineering (to find out how these beautiful machines actually worked) one of the CS lecturers was teaching us C. she mentioned linux. after class I went to the library. they had a massive network. running NT4. all the machines did. win 2000 wasn’t out yet. it had internet. fast internet. so I went to google. and searched for linux. it gave me a list of distros. there was Slackware, Debian, redhat and a few others.

I only had one floppy with me, so I had to find one that fitted on one floppy. I went for tomsrtbt. I took the disk back to my halls of residence and booted from the floppy. it was fantastic. but I had no idea how to use it. I had never used unix, or derivatives. I knew dos inside out, so tried all my commands. nothing. so the next day I went back to the library and filled a second floppy with documentation. I also found the how-to guides. I started to get the hang of tomsrtbt, mounting floppies, using cat, ls, etc. I had read about this thing called X, a graphical environment for linux, and tried to startx from my tomsrtbt. it didn’t work. I remembered the list that I found, so I went to the library again.

I read up on Slackware, Debian and redhat. I decided to go for zip-slack as I could fit it on five or six floppies and get it back to my machine, I also wouldn’t need to partition my hard-drive. there was nothing that could resize a partition, so I would have to nuke it and start from scratch, and I had a lot of uni work on it.

After I installed zip-slack I had to figure out how to get X working. it took months. I had to write the config by hand. I had to manually figure out mode-lines for my screen by trial and error, and once I got it working I only had the basics, twm and xterm :) but I had done it. I had a working X. I then found a redhat 5.2 cd at one of my friends houses and asked if I could have it, so I installed it. wow! had kde. version 1.something. it was amaising. much better than my windows 98. it worked with my sound-card. it didn’t work with my 56k win-modem, but it did work with the aging us-robotics serial port modem. I had internet in linux. the rest is history.