Helping my parents move, we found this piece of computer history. Doesn’t boot anymore (maybe the hard drive got damaged in the 10+ years it was off), but might try to make it work again. Wonder if it runs Linux?

The CPU is a 286 and it has 640K of RAM, so I think any kind of modern Linux (and probably any *BSD) is out of the question :D Let's see what we can do...

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@gueorgui It's a handsome frame. Even if it refuses to be useful, you could likely get a SBC in there.

@gueorgui With under 50 MB of ram I'm pretty sure it can't, but I guess you could try, if it doesn't NetBSD might work (but officially doesn't).

@lanodan Ha, NetBSD was my next options (it's supposed to run on everything!). I remember back in the day I could make it boot Windows 3.11 which officially it couldn't either, so not all hope is lost!

@gueorgui Also I think Plan9 might work on it, it has a very low memory usage.

@lanodan Ohh that would be a great little experiment. If I recall correctly, Plan9 is from the same era (late 80s)

@lanodan FiiO uses a modified Linux kernel for some their HiRes audio player with 64 MiB of RAM. Just like some "not so powerful" routers with 64 MiB on RAM. A custom kernel, stripped on all the useless drivers/modules, could work on low RAM old/embedded devices.


@lanodan @gueorgui The mainline/official kernel probably won't work.

>2 years ago, I tried running a headless Debian VM with low RAM, as little as possible. It kernels panic at boot with 64 MiB available, and boots/works properly with 86 MiB.

@devnull @gueorgui Yeah, 50 MB of RAM was something I remember from like NetBSD 1.0 and probably with a desktop.
Also debian's kernel is absolutely bloated as it has ~everything enabled.

@devnull @lanodan @gueorgui Main problem is that it's a 286 CPU. Linux requires protected mode, so 386 or higher. There's also the issue that practically all distributions ship code compiled for i686 or higher instructions, so even getting it to run in a 386 these days is an uphill battle.

@48kRAM Light, I missed the CPU architecture part, as I don't know much about the hardware that was mentionned.

@lanodan @gueorgui

@48kRAM @devnull @gueorgui Well a i386 would work fine with gentoo, just compile it on another machine, but yeah 286 is way too old.

Probably not a very relevant reply but
Early 2000s i found i couldn't install Linux (or at least any distro i knew of) on a 386 laptop with only 2mb of RAM, at the time it looked like it required at least 4mb of RAM, if only during the installation process, i ended up installing MINIX instead

Although some random search/old linux documentation gives me this

This isn't really a Pentium 1, right? (With that design & a 5.25" drive..)

@ghostlevel Haha, yes, it's a 286 with a 20 MB hard drive and 640KB of RAM. I'll take a look at MINIX!!

@gueorgui For instance: Damn Small Linux (latest version: 2008) based on TinyCore requires a 486 & 16MB of ram to be installed

Oh right, i couldn't see the text of the first photo, it's a 286 ok then it makes more sense to me :)

@gueorgui not Linux, but you can likely get a version of Xenix or MINIX to run. I haven't tried it yet but I looked into it once on my 286 with 640k

@68km @gueorgui

I was once able to get MINIX (the old one, not the completely-different-with-the-same-name thing) to work on an 8086-based PC so it should work on a 286.

I spent a lot of time in the 90s looking for a decent Unix with memory protection that would work on a pre-386 with no success. Those processors had really weird memory addressing which broke the common model.

I have vague memories of someone trying to port Linux to pre-386 systems but I don't think it went anywhere.

Maybe OS/2 1.x?

@gueorgui Very cool. Some suggestions are here in this 8 year old thread: Current operating systems for an 80286 PC - Super User -

@gueorgui OMG thats Amstrad ALT-286 Laptop Computer!
maybe Windows 3.1 Standard Mode can be run on this.

@roytam1 Windows 3.1 could definitely run on this, I've had it run on it in the past!

@gueorgui since it has only 80286, I doubt any modern operating system will run on it.

@gueorgui It appears to be a 286. My understanding is that those cannot run Linux because they're not 32-bit and I don't think there's a 16-bit x86 port of Linux. But you can run Minix on it! I used to have a Minix 286.

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