Thirty Years of Slackware

Slackware often is tagged as the oldest surviving Linux distro. Slackware 1.0 was released July 16, 1993. Thirty years is a long time with respect to human life spans. Thirty years is notable with respect to the computer industry. Also notable is the familiarity of the installation through the years. Other operating systems have changed face many times, but Slackware remains easy to recognize despite 30 years of adapting and improving.

Slackware has been part of the house network for 22 of those years.

The Slackware BDFL deserves much credit. Unlike the evolution of other distros, Pat has remained true to his roots to create a stable Unix-like operating system. Slackware was one of the early operating systems that came on optical disk, but Slackware is not a system where new fads and technology are adopted early. Technology needs to be proven long before seeing development activity in Slackware. Even then Pat tends to refuse adoption if doing so conflicts with his vision of a Unix-like operating system.

Slackware is based on a fixed release cycle and notoriously released “only when ready.” After release only security and severe bug patches are added. Sometimes that means updating software to a newer releases, but rarely for large-scale software projects. Thankfully these patches do not require users to join a kernel-of-the-week club. Support cycles are not official but many Slackware releases have seen average life cycles of 7.5 years. This approach means many years of using the release. Breakage is a rare experience and typically the breakage is from upstream.

Remarkable is how stable Slackware continues to be. Part of that stability is resistance to modifying upstream code and the basic Unix-like design. Once in a blue moon Pat has been known to reject upstream changes that contradicts years of tradition and standards. That so much software can keep humming together deserves reflection.

Admirable is that Slackware always has been released with close adherence to the spirit of free/libre software. There is no vendor lock in. Not once has Slackware been released only to people who pay. Through the years people have created derivatives based on Slackware. Those distros become part of the larger Slackware community.

Some people think Slackware is not shiny. Yet with each release Slackware includes the most recent version for much of the included software. Slackware might not have a fancy graphical installer or include much hand-holding, but that is a design that keeps many Slackers content. Shiny never has been much of a drawing card here. Aging vehicles, appliances, tools, furniture, and clothes continue to provide purpose and Slackware is no exception. Change for the sake of change tends to create turmoil and unwanted work.

There are no plans to use other operating systems in the house network outside of unique requirements. Distro hopping days are long gone as well as professional needs. Like the proverbial old pair of jeans, Slackware is a comfortable environment here and hopefully will remain so for many years to come.

Congratulations Pat. Live long and prosper.

Posted: Category: Usability Tagged: Slackware

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