I desire to know what was the very first Linux-kernel based operating system, what we can call today a "distribution" even if the term wasn't used then.

The Wiki article doesn't give a clear answer, as of my understanding. This Wiki list of distros doesn't have a release date column in tables.

This article, if I understand it correctly, says it was Linux 0.12 by Hj Lu

I found no clear answer in some other discussions.

1 Answer 1


The first Linux distribution was MCC Interim Linux, released in February 1992. It included a menu-driven installation tool, and provided the Bash shell, various text editors, the GNU utilities, AWK, GCC/G++, Kermit, etc. Before that, users bootstrapped their systems using boot and root floppy images provided by HJ Lu, but they’re typically not considered as distributions (they provide a way to get started, not a complete set of software).

See this Unix.SE question for a detailed discussion of the early use of Linux.

  • Stephen, I might miss your intention at Before that, users bootstrapped their systems. Did HJ Lu created an operating system or something else more basic? or by "systems" you meant that each user created its own "non-distribution yet Linux-based operating system" from HJ's stack?
    – user13751
    Commented Jun 3, 2019 at 21:35
  • 1
    HJ Lu’s floppies provided a way to boot Linux and end up with a running shell and a few other utilities. Starting from there, users had to download all the other pieces they wanted and set them up themselves. The disk set wasn’t even self-sufficient for installing Linux: you had to use an FDISK tool (typically, from DOS) to partition your disk, then create a file system usable by Linux and use a disk editor to make it bootable, then create all the device nodes and copy everything required from the root floppy, then install everything else (mostly from source, once you got the compiler). Commented Jun 4, 2019 at 4:33
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    The big ideas behind MCC are (a) to provide a self-sufficient, “user-friendly” installer, and (b) to provide a self-contained set of ready-to-use software. Users could download the MCC disks and they would need nothing else to get a usable system. That’s what makes it a distribution (in the current sense of the term). Commented Jun 4, 2019 at 4:36

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