Dmitry Grinberg has successfully booted Ubuntu 9.04 on an 8 bit micro machine with 6.5 KHz CPU and 16 MB RAM. Grinberg did this experiment on a ATmega1284p, 8-bit RISC microcontroller clocked at 24MHz and equipped with 16KB of SRAM and 128KB of flash storage. Since the RAM was too low, he added 30-pin 16MB SIMM to the machine and a 1 GB SD card to host Ubuntu image. … To get the world’s slowest Linux Computer running, he had to write an ARMv5 emulator which supports a 32bit processor and MMU. A similar machine can be made very easily and everything should come in about $20.
There is source code available, but it’s under a non-commercial use only license. Just how slow is it? “It takes about 2 hours to boot to bash prompt (‘init=/bin/bash’ kernel command line). Then 4 more hours to boot up the entire Ubuntu (‘exec init’ and then login). Starting X takes a lot longer. The effective emulated CPU speed is about 6.5KHz, which is on par with what you’d expect emulating a 32-bit CPU & MMU on a measly 8-bit micro. Curiously enough, once booted, the system is somewhat usable. You can type a command and get a reply within a minute.” If you like watching a whole lot of nothing, there’s a video of the boot process below the fold.