If you have ever studied the early history of the GNU/Linux operating system in its many forms, you’ll have read that [Linus Torvalds] developed his first kernel for his Intel 386-based computer. Though the 386 architecture is now ancient, the current Linux kernel can still be compiled for it and many distributions still maintain an i386 branch to provide broad compatibility for later machines able to run i386 code. But what if you were to take a current Linux kernel and stick it on a floppy in a machine from the early 1990s, with meagre RAM? [Fozztex] did just that, with not a 386 but a 486, sporting what would have been an impressive for the time 36MB of RAM. You can watch it in action in the video below the break.
A recent Linux kernel is rarely if ever compiled for something as small as a floppy disk, so getting one to boot from such ancient media appeared to be a challenge. It was possible though with the
tinyconfig make option, and after finding a small enough root filesystem courtesy of Aboriginal Linux, a bootable floppy was created. It’s not entirely useful and its sole purpose was to see whether Linux could see a large hard drive on the 486, but it’s still a version 5.6 Linux kernel booting from floppy on an ancient computer. Never complain that your Raspberry Pi Zero is slow again, we’ve come a long way!
Header image — Afrank99 / CC BY-SA 2.0