My Journey To Slackware

I thought I’d republish here a post I made on Slackware’s forum, so as to preserve this personal valuable content, and not have it lost to the forum’s constant rearranging of topics.

Without further ado:

I started using computers in the fall of ’84, when, as a fresh-faced student in junior high, I had my first taste of computers. The very first computer I tried was a TRS-80 Model I. By today’s standards, it was, and is, hopelessly underpowered, but for me, it was a chance to control something in my life. I knew from the moment I saw it that computers would become my life’s passion. That has not changed.

When I entered high school, I took a programming class, and they used Apple IIe computers (a computer, by the way, I have major respect for, having been imbued with the genius of one Steve Wozniak, and the last computer Apple made which I used with regularity). That whetted my appetite for programming at the time, and I wanted more.

After getting out of the military, I started building my own computers. Anyone who started in that era will remember vividly when add-on cards came with jumpers, and a manual that detailed what settings controlled what IRQ line it would take, what memory range it would occupy, etc. To have a working system then would have been a work of art, and maybe a bit of genius.

It was around ’96 when I first heard of this open-source OS called Linux. At the time, I was running FreeBSD, and liked its init system, and hoped for something similarly simple to administrate. Nevertheless, I experimented with some of the other major offerings to see if something else would be better suited to my tastes.

Alas, none of the major offerings (Red Hat, SuSE, Caldera, among others) came close to satisfying my need for tweaking my system to my heart’s content. In frustration, I googled for a distro which was similar to BSD. Among the results was a mention of something called Slackware. Curious, I checked it out. The description sounded like what I was looking for, so I downloaded it. This was in, I believe, about 2006, soon after the release of 10.2; I bought 11.0 on CD-ROM when it was released, as a measure of good faith.

I had to use Windows for some applications back then, because application support wasn’t where it is now, and so I dual-booted. But gradually, as Linux app support became better, I gradually used Windows less and less, and in about 2012, I stopped using it entirely. And I have had no reason to regret leaving it behind.

The reason I use Slackware is because it gives me the experience that those older home computers gave me: it forced me to know what my computer was doing behind the scenes. When something was broken or didn’t work right, I was forced to find my own solution. Solving problems can be simultaneously frustrating and exhilarating. For me, it is something that I can never explain to another who is not already intimately familiar with that experience. You just have to experience it for yourself.

I can’t ever imagine another distro that will give me that experience and for that reason alone, I will continue using Slackware for as long as it is maintained. Hopefully that will be for awhile!!


Author: Matthew Miller

I am currently attending Kansas State University, and am pursuing a bachelor's degree in Computer Science. I was raised in a Christian family, and fervently serve the Lord, as it has helped me and my family throughout my life.

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