Only Slackware and SLS (Soft Landing Systems) Linux were around at the time and both were commercial distributions.
Murdock chose the name of the project based on his own name and that of his then-partner, Debra. The gentleman that he is, he adhered to the dictum that ladies are first - and hence the Debian GNU/Linux Project was born.
Seventeen years on, Debian is known for producing a top-class distro, catering to more architectures than any other, and being the base for the most popular distribution, Ubuntu.
It has more packages in its archives than any other distribution. It has one of the best user-supported mailing lists and a huge number of articulate, highly motivated and intelligent developers who interact with the public.
More than 1000 developers from all over the globe are part of the Debian community, their often-noisy debates and insistence on the values of free software often causing ructions far beyond their own mailing lists - which are open to the public.
Debian has just turned 17 and some of the developers have set up a site where anyone who wishes to do so can send a message of thanks to the project or to individual developers or teams. One of the devs behind this project is Margarita Manterola who, earlier this year, became the first woman to run for the post of Debian project leader.
Having saved an enormous amount of money over the last 10 years and also had a highly reliable platform for all my computing needs, I have already offered my thanks.
Numerous Debian developers have figured in these columns over the years - Bdale Garbee, Steve Mcintyre, Stefano Zacchiroli, Martin Michlmayr, Anthony Towns, Sam Hocevar, Jonathan Oxer, Russell Coker and Andrew McMillan, are some of the names that come to mind.
And, no doubt, Debian will continue to figure into the future.