Linux use when RAM amounted to a few Megabytes.

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Linux use when RAM amounted to a few Megabytes.

Postby edbarx » 2018-03-08 09:07

Since I never used Linux when RAM was very costly and limited to only a few tens of megabytes, I would like to ask those who used Linux during those times. I remember MS Windows was 'slow' and used disk swapping very heavily making applications take quite a noticeable time to load.

Did old Linux suffer from heavy use of disk swapping?
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Re: Linux use when RAM amounted to a few Megabytes.

Postby reinob » 2018-03-08 10:40

@edbarx,

The question is too vague to answer. I used Linux (Slackware) when the kernel was still 1.x on a 486 with 4MB (later upgraded to 16MB). Swap was the then-recommended 2-3x physical RAM.

With normal use (pine, emacs, etc. on the VT) and even using X (I used twm and fvwm -- GNOME and KDE didn't exist at that time..) it worked quite OK.

I didn't use Netscape though. It wasn't that practical until I got DSL (much later). Did pine with fetchmail (POP3, then offline), ftp, and lynx if something from the Web was necessary..

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Re: Linux use when RAM amounted to a few Megabytes.

Postby wizard10000 » 2018-03-08 10:50

My first Linux box was also a 486; this was back in the day before modular kernels were a thing and the kernel had to be small enough to fit on a 1.44MB floppy or the thing wouldn't boot.

Back then you compiled a kernel to support only your hardware and you had no choice whether you were going to roll your own kernel or not - it was part of the install process. I've run Linux on 8MB RAM and it worked just fine, but then so did Windows.

*Much* smaller feature set than we have today. RAM was ridiculously expensive back then and I was doing SMP and SCSI RAID5 on a desktop machine - which actually performed pretty well. I believe my first dual-processor motherboard was made by Asus, had embedded SCSI and a pair of *slot-load* SECC Pentium II processors.

Processors looked like this -

Image

This is the motherboard I used - an Asus P2B-DS. Not my actual motherboard but same make and model -

Image
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Re: Linux use when RAM amounted to a few Megabytes.

Postby steve_v » 2018-03-09 05:39

1st GNU/Linux box: Slackware on a 486 DX4/120, 21MB RAM.
No swapping, so long as one did not run X. If I did run X, it was solely for Nutscrape... Err, Netscrap... That GUI web browser thing. For everything else there was the console and SVGALib.
X was a PITA due to my oddball Cirrus Logic VLB video card anyway. Silly games with memory holes and colour depth, IIRC.

Slowest GNU/Linux box: FreeSCO on a 486 DX2/66, 12MB RAM. No cache, for added slowness. 80MB HDD holding FDD boot images. I still have this machine, and it still works perfectly.
Last edited by steve_v on 2018-03-09 06:05, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Linux use when RAM amounted to a few Megabytes.

Postby Bulkley » 2018-03-09 05:56

What I remember was that Linux had to be installed with six, seven or more partitions. It was almost an art form getting the partitions just right.

I also remember using Gopher to scoot around the world. Speed on dial-up modems was slow but connections were reasonably quick because data was so limited. Pictures were rare. There was no advertising. Anyone who tried to commercialize the Internet was hit with DOS attacks.

My first Linux, Caldera, came on a single 3 1/2" floppy from the back of a magazine. To this day I have a hard time understanding why distros come so fat they won't fit on a CD.
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Re: Linux use when RAM amounted to a few Megabytes.

Postby steve_v » 2018-03-09 06:15

Bulkley wrote:Speed on dial-up modems was slow but connections were reasonably quick because data was so limited. Pictures were rare. There was no advertising.

The internet obesity epidemic is real. Try loading a "modern" javascript & advertising infested web page on a machine with <128MB RAM. Frankly, it's ridiculous, none of the bloat is useful data at all.
I actually tried this recently, a 486 running OS/2 Warp, with 24MB RAM, a 33.6K connection and Firefox 1.0. The result was not pretty. Links is still usable, because it doesn't even try to parse most of the bloat. Gopher is better still, though there's not much there these days.
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Re: Linux use when RAM amounted to a few Megabytes.

Postby edbarx » 2018-03-11 15:03

reinob wrote:@edbarx,

The question is too vague to answer.

Well, others had no problem understanding it.
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