My very first Linux distro was Mandrake Linux (about in 2001/2002 in a PPRO MMX @200MHz). I had it installed for about a month when it was causing some serious conflicts with my computer hardware.
Furthermore, its KDE implementation was very resource hogging.
Then, some time later (and with a new computer), I've started to use Ubuntu (more or less the time it began to become popular in Linux Reviews (end of 2005)). I was so frustated with Windows XP performance that time that I wanted to try something different. Unfortunately, I became a bit disappointed with Ubuntu because it needed a lot of manual configuration at that time, and I also did't like the GNOME DE at that time (and I think it still has almost the same aspect it had in 2005/2006... :sarcastic: ). Furthermore, I was still a beginner in Linux... .
Although that experience wasn't the best, it was the first time I stuck (finally) with Linux.
Currently, I'm using in my computers a dual-boot solution of Arch x86_64 with LXDE/OB (now I've some more experience in Linux...) + Win7 (due to some programs I need that still don't work on Linux ).
I think my first distro was RedHat 7.3. From there I went to 8.0,9.0 (was around the time you saw the 2.4 => 2.6 Kernel changeover hell). Being a desktop user, I was I was quickly dissatisfied with the results (as anyone would be if they are ignorant about the software they're using) and started jumping around distros.
RH7.3, RH8.x, RH9.x, Lindows, Peanut Linux (which I was very impressed with), then I kinda went back to Windows on the desktop for a while. I eventually built a good system with some grad money, and became so frustrated with Windows that I wiped the system and installed SuSE 9.1. I then spent months breaking the SuSE over and over again with bad configuration until I started getting stuff right. I've used Linux exclusively since.
The ICH5R RAID which I had such a hard time getting working in Windows that I wasn't willing to reinstall was such a cinch to get working in SuSE, I couldn't believe it. The more I dug, the more power I found. I used SuSE primarily at home until 10.2, where the dual package management was implemented (both zypper and YaST in the same system - yuck!) and then switched to (k)Ubuntu for a while. I liked the speed of the desktop, hated everything else. Switched back to SuSE.
From when I switched to SuSE 9.1, I've played with countless distros. Fedora, Ubuntu, Linspire, YDL, Familiar (both OPIE and GPE), RHEL, CentOS... curing the ignorance one day at a time. I hope to get some more experience with Solaris and the BSD variants here soon too, Solaris in particular looked extremely promising for some applications.
I started using Slackware around 2003 I think. Since I came late to the computer party I built my first computer around 2000. So I went something like this: Slackware -> FreeBSD -> Gentoo -> Debian
I now use Debian and derivatives on every computer I own. I've also stopped by Fedora and SUSE but never used them over longer periods of time.
I had to leave many of my original CDs behind when I lost my home about a year ago, and memories fade a little bit, but not a lot. I ran my first Linux distro in November 1995 and I bought a book co-authored by Patrick Volkerding with Reichard and Johnson. So given that the book had to be published, the actual date that this particular Slackware was released was REAL early. I'll take a guess and say that it was Slackware 1.2 and the Linux, if even 1.0, was barely so.
Compared to all of you on the last few pages, it makes the stuff I first ran seem old, so I was reminded of an OLD Frank Sinatra song... "You Make Me Feel So Young!" ;-) That song is more ancient than any Linux distro, and older, in fact, than UNIX itself, but some commercials in recent years have picked back up on that line, so I thought I'd bring it back one more time.
I come back to Slackware occasionally, and it has matured greatly over the years, but the core of the installation program is very close to what it was way back in 1995. Some people would say that it's antique, but it works very well.
Most of the time I use Debian based distributions, but this evening I am running a bunch of testing distributions, and I recently booted Xubuntu 11.04 Alpha 3 and upgraded the packages; it is quite volatile right now, but it's working quite well for me and I think that the Xubuntu variation is going to be in good shape for the late April 11.04 release.
While having heard about the concept earlier, I never got to try it out.
That was, until I was drafted to serve in the military for 9 months (as is mandatory in Germany... Yes, we still have that, although it is probably going to be abolished in the near future due to budget reasons). I didn't want to be commanded around and trained for the day someone invades the country, so i refused serving in the military and opted for a 9-month civil service instead. There I was tasked with overseeing the "library" of an education center, which was a room in the basement with loads of antiquated books, some board games (ever tried "Junta"? It's great!), and a bunch of equally ancient pentium-III machines for internet browsing, running Debian woody.
No one there knew anything about how it worked, since everything had been setup by a then-defunct computer shop. Neither did I, but at least i had plenty of time to nose around, experiment and get used to complaints by others that their downloaded strip-poker apps wouldn't install.
By the end of those 9 months, I had at least a rudimentary understanding of how things actually worked, and a xubuntu installation on my own laptop.
Since then, I use linux almost exclusively on my own computers - now i have a netbook with xubuntu (9.10, didn't bother to upgrade yet as most things work as they should), and a self built PC with arch linux.
In between I had an old G4 powermac, which ran Debian lenny, and soon will be serving as a fileserver. Today I got a new router (D-Link DIR-655), which delivered a printed (!) GPL statement in the box... Perhaps that one will also recieve openWRT eventually, I've checked the compatibility list in any case.
To date, I think Linux gives me the amount of tinkering with my computers I've wanted for a long time. Before I got to linux, I used to tinker with the hardware directly, which is way more expensive (think self-built water-cooled pc housed in a cardboard box and rearranged every few weeks ).
Well, I first saw Linux with MandrakeMove. I then had a bit of fun with Knoppix. The first one I had installed was Fedora Core 2 on an old, slow machine (AMD K6-III), but it didn't get used much. I then installed Fedora 8 on my own machine, and that was my first real introduction to Linux: actually using and customising it. Then Fedora 10, 11, 12. Now openSUSE 11.4 installed over the internet (in the future, it will be customised with SUSE Studio before downloading, then I've got the disc, not only a CD to start the instal from the net).