Downloading ISOs wasn't an option back then since I only had a dial-up connection, so I bought those Linux magazines or those "For Dummies" books with CDs. Those distros were usually 1-2 years behind though.
Since I wanted the latest and the greatest, I stumbled upon LFS. It was the greatest thing since sliced bread since all I needed to download was about 100 MB of tarballs, instead of 650-700 MB of ISOs.
Ever notice that even the busiest people are never too busy to tell you just how busy they are?