Excerpts from: The Daemon, the GNU & the Penguin ~ by Dr. Peter H. Salus
Chapter 20. Proliferating Penguins - Part I:
From the early 1980s on, the big gripe about Unix was that it had split and resplit, that there were just too many variants. The fact that they had a common base was irrelevant to the critics -- and many (if not most) of those critics were selling VMS or MVS or DOS or...
Following Linus' postings of 1991, there soon were what we have come to call "distributions." And, rather than utilizing ftp, they came on CD-ROM.
The first of these was Adam Richter's Yggdrasil
(in the Old Norse Edda, Yggdrasil is the "world ash," from a branch of which Odin/Wotan made his spear). Yggdrasil alpha was released on 8 December 1992. It was called LGX: Linux/GNU/X -- the three components of the system. Recall that Gilmore, Tiemann and Henkel-Wallace formed Cygnus in 1989. Richter spoke to Michael Tiemann about setting up a business, but was "definitely uninterested in joining forces with Cygnus."
Yggdrasil beta was released the next year. Richter's press release read:
The Yggdrasil beta release is the first UNIX(R) clone to include multimedia facilities as part of its base configuration. The beta release also includes X-windows, networking ... an easy installation mechanism, and the ability to run directly from the CD-ROM.
The beta was priced at $50; the production release was $99.
SuSE was formed in 1992 also, as a consulting group (SuSE was originally S.u.S.E., which stood for "Software-und-System-Entwicklung," Software and System Development), but did not release a Linux distribution for several years. The next distribution -- and the oldest still in existence -- was Patrick Volkerding's Slackware, released 16 July 1993, soon after he graduated from Minnesota State University Moorhead. It, in turn, was the basis for SuSE's release "Linux 1.0" of SLS/Slackware in 1994. (SLS was "Softlanding Linux System," Peter McDonald's 1992 distribution, on which parts of Slackware were based.) SuSE later integrated Florian La Roche's Jurix distribution, resulting in a unique distribution: SuSE 4.2 (1996).
The next year, Mark Bolzern was trying to sell a Unix database from Multisoft, a German company. He encountered difficulties because it was relatively expensive to set up the Unix system. Then he came across Gnu/Linux and realized that he now had a real solution. He convinced Multisoft to port Flagship (the db) to Linux and "that was the first commercial product released on Linux," Bolzern said.
"People were always having trouble installing Linux," he continued, "and then Flagship wouldn't run right because something had changed." Bolzern decided that what was needed was a release that wouldn't change for a year, so he "picked a specific distribution of Slackware" and "the name Linux Pro." Soon he was selling more Linux than Flagship: "we're talking hundreds per month."
And when Red Hat came out, Bolzern picked that up.
Mark Ewing had set up Red Hat in 1993. Mark Ewing has said: "I started Red Hat to produce a development tool I thought the world needed. Linux was just becoming available and I used [it] as my development platform. However, I soon found that I was spending more time managing my Linux box than I was developing my software, and I concluded that what the world really needed was a good Linux distribution..."