How PCQuest Started the Linux Revolution in the Country #PCQ35Years

by May 26, 2022 0 comments

Anil Chopra
VP-Research and Consulting, CyberMedia Research
Former Editor of PCQuest

Though it has been more than 25 years since PCQuest released its first-ever Linux distro with the magazine, it seems like only yesterday that it happened. The memories of how it all took place are still fresh in my mind. I feel really proud to have been a part of the team that spent countless sleepless nights to start the Linux revolution in the country.

Let’s first set the context of how it all started. Back in the 90’s, the cost of owning and running a PC was exorbitantly high. In order to do anything useful with a PC, you had to buy not only buy the hardware, but also the OS, applications, a modem and an Internet connection pack with it. All this made the PC of the 90’s accessible to corporates, educations institutes, or a select few rich individuals who could afford it. So, if you really wanted a PC, you could either save money for months to buy one, or go to the computer lab of your school or college, remove your shoes outside, step into the air-conditioned room and start using it. Yes, that’s how computer rooms were in those days!

What does that have to do with Linux you may ask? As Linux and all the software for it was free, users only had to worry about buying the hardware. Moreover, it was very stable and could extend the usable life of a PC for a much longer period of time. The global open-source software movement ensured that there were more than enough free software tools available on Linux on the Internet. While this sounds very exciting, the initial difficulty was in getting a usable copy of Linux itself. It was just not possible to download it because Internet connectivity was very slow and expensive back then (unlike today where you can download GBs of data in just a few minutes!).

Keeping this in mind, PCQuest managed to get a copy and released its first version of Linux back in March 1996. The first edition was a Slackware Linux distro and not PCQ Linux. The issue was a success, which could be gauged by the sheer number of requests that came in to repeat it. And so we did–In September 1997, PCQ released another issue with Linux. While this was also successful, it still wasn’t a big enough hit to create waves in the market.

The real waves were created in May 1998, when the PCQ Team decided to swap Slackware with RedHat Linux. Not only did they swap, but they also customized it by removing all unwanted packages and applications, added essential ones, and then rebranded it as PC Quest Linux. The team that put it together also created a comprehensive users guide in the magazine to go along with it, so that people could learn how to use it. This issue was so successful that there were long queues at the news stands to buy a copy. The issue was sold out from the stands and PCQ had to reprint more copies of it to meet the demand!

In fact, the issue was so successful that PCQ Linux CDs were being sold in the black market for double the price. At one time, it was even selling on eBay for four hundred bucks! The distro even reached neighbouring countries like Mauritius who referred to the CD and the magazine to learn how to use the latest software tools!

So what started as an experiment turned out to become a revolution in the country. Developers, students, technology enthusiasts, consultants, IT heads—everyone who till now didn’t have easy and affordable access to software and tools to learn and experiment were able to get everything they needed for the mere cost of a magazine!

It wasn’t just the main Linux issue that promoted Linux in the country. The PCQ team kept releasing newer versions of PC Quest Linux year after year for more than a decade. PC Quest Linux was re-branded to PCQ Linux, the RedHat distro was changed to Fedora Linux, the distro became bigger and was released in two CDs at first, and later on DVDs. Every subsequent issue of PCQuest that followed also carried a lot of hands-on tutorials on how to use different kinds of tools in PC Quest Linux.

It was a combination of all this that made PCQ the most important source of Linux and a huge promoter of open-source software in the country. It was innovations like this that kept PCQuest ahead of all competition. So much so that while most magazines have shut shop, PCQuest continues to celebrate its 35th year.

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