Twenty years ago, almost to the day, my friend Jamie showed up with four floppy disks. Two of them were a boot/root pair for 386BSD (none of FreeBSD, NetBSD, or OpenBSD existed yet) and two of them were for Linux 0.96c. It’s pretty hard to overstate how cool and amazing it was to see protected-mode multitasking on a PC. This was an old 20 MHz 386 that my parents had given me when they bought a 486; I mostly used it for Pascal programming, dialing into the campus mainframe to read Usenet, and playing games—Wing Commander, mainly, I think, since Doom was still a ways off.
Both operating systems were an obvious improvement over Minix, which I had hacked in OS class. Minix had pretty source code but, lacking memory protection and such, it wasn’t very useful. I wasn’t sure which of Linux or 386BSD to start using, but Jamie had been reading alt.os.linux for a few weeks and was impressed by the excitement it was generating, so I decided to go with Linux. The boot/root system was very limited—not many utilities could be fit onto the root floppy. However, a handful of rudimentary Linux distributions already existed at this point so it wasn’t too hard to get it installed onto my machine’s hard disk. Even years after this initial installation my friends and I could be found walking around the CS building carrying shoeboxes full of floppies.
This post doesn’t have a point, I just thought it was kind of weird that (since I turn 40 next week) I’ve had a Linux machine on my desk for pretty much exactly half of my life.