I was first exposed to Unix in 1993, in college. It was arcane, complicated, even case-sensitive on the CLI! But, by golly, I could take this C program I had written for DOS, compile it, and it would run.
The system was an Alpha that got scrapped for parts during the summer. We had a shiny new AIX system when I returned the following autumn. I learned how to use "man" and that was all I needed.
I got my degree, and signed up for the free Unix Review monthly, for some exposure to non-M$ stuff. In it, I read about this interesting thing called Linux, that acted like Unix, ran on any PC that could run Windows, and came on a CD (this was in 1997). Well, I decided to give it a spin.
I went to a local bookstore, found their section with computer books, and picked up the cheapest Linux book with an install CD in it: the Linux Bible, which was largely a collection of HOWTO's of varying accuracy, plus a detailed first section on installing Slackware Linux from the CD. For the first, last, and probably only time in my life, I read the instructions very carefully, even taking two pages of hand-written notes in preparation for the work ahead.
Three installation attempts later, I finally got a working Linux boot. Success! I got a login prompt, logged in as root, typed "man vi", and rejoiced. I was actually running a pure 32-bit, multi-user, multi-tasking OS on my home computer. Granted, Linux is the adopted bastard step-cousin of the Unix family, but its multi-user multi-tasking capabilities were designed in pretty much from the beginning, not tacked on as progressive overlays as as Microsoft had done going from DOS to Windows 95. (I'm ignoring Windows NT; I couldn't afford a system that heavy.)
I did so much wrong back then: running as root, never updating, yadda yadda yadda. I learned about such things in the School of Hard Knocks, but that was my own obstinacy. When my Linux installation got messed up, I knew it was probably my own fault.
By contrast, what happened to my Windows installation was not my own fault: I lost everything to the Chernobyl virus on April 1, 1998, thirteen years ago tomorrow as I write this. It wiped out my partition table, which blew away both Windows and Linux. Since I didn't have the tools to recover Windows, and Linux partition recovery tools were hard to come by, I decided to start over with 100% Slackware Linux. Thirteen years later, I'm so happy I did.
I haven't stayed with Slackware the entire time. I've wandered into Mandrake, Red Hat, and Gentoo territory, but I've come back to Slackware every time. When I got my 64-bit desktop system, before Patrick had official x86_64 support, I had Slamd64 and Bluewhite64. As soon as Slackware64-current went public, I downloaded the entire set of packages and installed them.
Rest assured, if I ever get an ARM-based system, it will (must) support ARMedslack.
Thank you, Pat, for all the fun you put into Slackware, and all the doors you've opened up for me. The learning curve was steep, but without it, I wouldn't have been able to get that job in Silicon Valley, and I wouldn't have met you at Linux World Expo 2000 in San Jose.