Auuuauagh, progress. I know that the worst thing you can do when you’re not making progress on something is disappear and not update anyone, so let me update you on my lack of progress:

First of all, I’ve not … done nothing! I tried to track down RedHat 3.0.3 but it turns out that back in the day, we all actually bought CDs (or got distributions free with books and magazines), so one wasn’t easily available. As I recall, ISO9660’s El Torito boot stuff wasn’t that common around 1996 yet, either.

In 1996, you installed operating systems from these:

floppy disks

So, I’ve switched tack and gone for Slackware 2.3. This was the Linux I used first, and the reason I didn’t pick it as my first choice was that I was trying to emulate the kind of environment my first ISP, Ireland On-Line had. They were reasonably early Linux adopters (though in this parallel 1996 I’m aiming for, I think they were still mainly Solaris).

Slackware though, has its own set of cool retro-memories for me, so I’ll have fun getting that up and running. It explictly handled being installed from floppies (lots of floppies: up to 82 of them for a full-full-full install) as well as lots of other ways, like a DOS folder full of tar.gz files.

Because of it’s reasonably lame packaging system, it encourages compiling things from source, even the NetBSD ports system was ported to it at one point. This is relevant because, while I’m trying to stay true to the versions of clients and daemons that shipped or were available at the time, I expect I will need to pull in some modern things, like TLS libraries, to stand a chance of speaking to the modern Internet.

So, I have a copy of the boot and root floppies and the 82 installation disks I’ll need to complete the install. I have the QEMU environment to install all of this too: I just haven’t gotten around to it yet (did I mention I’m selling my house?) — but stay tuned!

(photo credit: Tiffany LeMaistre, CC-BY-SA 2.0)