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Slackware Linux on a 386sx40

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#slackware #xwindows #xfree86 #retro #linux #vintage

In this video I’m going to install Slackware 1.1.2 on an old 386SX40 using floppies. The goal is to get the base linux installed, along with networking and X support.

It’s one thing to install linux on a virtual machine, but to install it on a 30 year old computer is another. So join me on this journey back in the past, to the beginning of 1994 when Slackware 1.1.2 was released, and the entire kernel source tree could still fit on a single 1.44MB 3.5 inch floppy.

I’ll be going over the hardware of the PC (Soundblaster Pro, Mitsumi CDROM, 3Com networking card and a Trident video card). I’ll cover the actual installation and configuration of the components.

In a second part we will be tackling sound, software, mitsumi cdrom IRQ hell and a lot more.

43 thoughts on “Slackware Linux on a 386sx40

  1. 0:19 Holy crap! An old Mitsumi single-speed CD-ROM drive! That was the first CD-ROM drive I ever purchased, in 1993, as a sixth-grader for my 486! Man, I thought I was the king of the world with that thing. I've never seen anyone else have one just like it.

  2. I am actually amazed the most by that weird top loader CD-ROM drive.
    Seeing vintage computers, Windows 3.x and early Linux versions is fun but this thing really was my personal highlight.
    Even more so than you guiding us through the setup of X

  3. lilo and xfree86 boy that brings me back. When I bought my first network switch it came with some terrible linux distro on floppy. I installed it on my old 486 but it was missing so much stuff I eventually switched over to debian and have been a fan since. Part 2 will be super interesting!

  4. Wow you must have one of the only working conner drivers in existance! Many brands back then wern't known to last. Western digital and seagate where some of the brands that won out due to people trusting their drives more.

  5. Yes .. Slackware .. I was using that also at that time. Started with DLG but had a version which did not support PCI .. Slackware solved that. I also remember that compiling the kernel took about 1 hour on my fathers 486 🙂 …

  6. Brings me back. I installed Slackware on my 386 but it had a AMD Am386DX-40 at 40MHz and a Cyrix 387 DX 33 and 16MB of RAM. Had it on there for a week then tossed on Debian 1.1 Buzz.

  7. It's pretty depressing that we'll probably get to the stage were stuff being sold that day is running kernel/userlands as old and insecure as this is now.

  8. Oh this brings back memories for sure. Using the editor to manually configure the xconfig file making sure your monitor was controlled within specs. I used the Smalltalk quite a bit as I was actually a student assistent teaching Smalltalk at the faculty back in University in the 90s.

  9. The video is very good. It is very interesting to see how the installation process of one of the first Linux distributions was. But honestly, between that early version of Linux and Microsoft Windows 3.1, I prefer Windows 3.1. And of course, I also prefer to work with Windows 3.1 to MS-DOS. For someone who was used to MS-DOS in 1994 or 1993, Windows 3.1 was amazing.

  10. Funny seeing linux being set up like this back in the day. Such a pig compared to the polished and excellent user experience today. Wasn't impressed back in the day, but it's great to see linux running on this old kit.

  11. I'm loving these paleolithic Linux flashbacks. I cut my teeth on FreeBSD 2.2 then Slackware 3.1 from a Walnut Creek CDROM set. Good times
    Just last year I saved a box of still-sealed FreeBSD 3.2 Walnut Creek CD sets from June 1999 from the dumpster. Would you like one?

  12. Ha! Xeyes! My go-to app for testing my X windows install back in the day.

    I see we have even been spoiled by recent Linux distros. Installing Slackware reminded me of installing ancient versions of SunOS that required all kinds of manual steps related to partitions, disk mirrors, etc.

  13. Never tried Slackware. The first Linux I ever used was Corel Linux which included WordPerfect. Also played around with another OS called Minix, various versions of OS/2 and Mac System 7 back in the day.

  14. Back when the PC featured here was new I hadn't even heard of Linux yet, which I don't believe I discovered until 1995. Even then I didn't install my first distribution until 2007. I was a solid Windows guy until then, but these days I do run Linux Mint as my main OS. I love retro hardware, but I'm not sure how useful it would be today running Linux. About the only thing that interests me to do with such old PCs is retro gaming, and for that era you'd be using DOS. Still it was very interesting seeing the setup. Sometimes half the fun is configuring things.

  15. This is wonderful to see again. Pretty much exactly how I got started, with Slackware 1.1 on floppies. Spent all of christmas 1993 exploring the whole new world that was Linux. 🙂
    Luckily I had a beefier machine than yours (486-50 with 16MB RAM, Tseng ET4000) so it ran really well.
    Later on I discovered Walnut Creek and wow, they were so awesome. Still got my first CD sets of Slackware 2.0 and a FreeBSD from the same time, somewhere..
    That was truly an exciting time to be a computer nerd. Finally, we could have the massive power of Unix, at home, on cheap hardware! Completely unheard of. I feel privileged to have experienced this journey from the early days.
    Thank you for the flashback, this was a really good watch. Please, more retro Linux. 🙂

  16. 7:26 I remember downloading about 50MB at a time overnight, on my home dialup connection. I would start the download before going to bed, and set the connection to disconnect after 10 minutes’ idle (i.e. after the download had finished). Looks like that should be sufficient for getting the whole of Slackware 1.1.x?

  17. I did have a cd-rom drive so the first linux I installed was from one of the infomagic box set. It was the mid 90's and I installed it on a 386-dx 20 with 4 megs of ram. My solution to dual boot was to add an external switch that changed which drive was master and which was slave. You could have an entire unix like operating system with a graphical interface on a 20 megahertz system with 4 megs of ram. These days even your hello world program takes more than 4 megs or ram.

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