At home, wrapped up in a plastic bag I have an old P2 400MHz machine with 64MB RAM that we used until recently as an alternate dial up machine. Has Windows 98, and somewhere I have a spare no name ethernet card that will work with it. I've also had a hankering for a linux machine at home, but even now linux is a little bloated and a lot of distros don't run comfortably in so little memory.
However in theory you could build ubuntu to run in that little memory with an alternate window manager. Well, I didn't build it on the old clunker, but using parallels I built a custom low memory vm using the alternate install cd for ubuntu 7.04 (feisty fawn) to build a command line only system (there's an ubuntu guide that walks you through this).
To this I added:
- window managers
- icewm - preferred
- Kwrite (my favorite) & Kate
- xfe - file manger
- dillo - lightweight browser
- Notice - no mail client. Theory is that firefox, while a bit slow will perform well enough to work with gmail and by keeping things light the system should perform well enough. If mail is really dire there's always mutt. As a test system it seems to hang together nicely. I can edit (this is being written with kwrite on the vm), print, wordprocess, and surf the web, not to mention download podcasts, which is all I want to build the system for.
In emulation it seems fine. Next question is how well does it perform on genuine 1999 hardware?