Am trying to remember the beginning days from the 0.98 or so era in 92. Was using 386BSD for a bit then decided to go to Linux (or perhaps I had them both going...had CP/M installed then too.) I think the first was a boot disk and a root filesystem disk. Then there were all the different disk images for GCC, and so on. rawrite it to a disk in dos, tar vfxM in Linux. Token ring at college, so no networking for me :( First real distribution was SLS, followed by Slackware, which was the main one for a while. Used RedHat at workt, and then Debian (about 1998). Since then, it's been Debian. There are a couple things I use uBuntu for, but that's pretty much the same.
Don't care about the free philosophy behind it, and don't really think it's perfect, but it is the one that has felt right. Have touched RedHat and SuSE since then because of things based on it, and still come back to Debian and uBuntu.