I remember using Knoppix, a live Debian-based distro, a decade ago.

It was a nightmare, since user-friendly documentation was hard to come by. --help synopsis for the coreutils commands are too short for a beginner to understand much, man pages are littered with detailed documentation for long-tail use-cases that you don't need 80% of the time. Good luck finding the command and/or configuration file to connect to the Internet, to get help from usenet, a forum, or AltaVista. You were lucky if you managed to accomplish something in a day.

Nowadays I get >75% of my questions answered instantly by Google that redirects me to a StackExchange post.

My actual question is: Can I post a historical question like this on Unix/Linux? I'm very eager to hear other user's experiences, or is this not suited for this Q&A site?

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    What is your exact "historical question"? What people did before SE? Ask questions on mailing lists and Usenet. And there were web forums before SE, but I don' t know many people used them. I didn't. But in any case, such a question would probably get closed on U&L SE, yes, since it isn't about Unix. See the site scope. Apr 13, 2016 at 20:34
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    Actually I had more time to accomplish stuff before Stack Exchange. Apr 13, 2016 at 21:19
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    To the inverse of what you are experiencing, it is unfortunately much busier on the Gentoo forums than it is on the gentoo tag.
    – CaptJak
    Apr 24, 2016 at 18:10
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    You might want to learn how to use GNU Info based documentation (The default info command might be somewhat hard to use, but there are alternative programs like pinfo, tkinfo, info2www & yelp).
    – JanC
    Apr 28, 2016 at 20:27

1 Answer 1


No, this wouldn't be suited for the main site. Questions about history of Unix systems are on-topic, but this isn't about Unix systems, it's about coping without today's Internet and about learning techniques.

Back then, when the Internet was something private individuals didn't really have access to, and if you did have access to it then you'd better know where to search because search engines weren't very good or didn't exist yet, and dinosaurs sat in machine rooms, …

People read books. Read books to learn the basics, and to know where to look. After that the manuals will make more sense.

You could ask questions on Usenet, if you had access to it. It was kind of like Stack Exchange without the search.

Linux distributions came with howtos. And back then they weren't over a decade old.

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