Installing Debian on low-memory machines
But: Debian is installable on such machines though it's not very
straight-forward. Go get the files for Debian "slink" from
Debian archive and install that as per instructions. (Point the installer,
if you're using the "apt"-method, to
"http://archive.debian.org/debian-archive", distribution " slink")
You can get away with just 4 MB RAM that way. (*grin*)
Be aware, though, that Slink doesn't seem to put the kernel into /boot as Potato and Woody do, so make damn sure that your root-partition is entirely within the first GB of disk.
Next step is upgrading your distribution one by one. Edit /etc/apt/sources.list to point to Potato, eg "deb http://ftp.de.debian.org/debian/ potato main non-free contrib", and do the usual upgrade/dist-upgrade dance. Make sure to install some kernel-2.2 - image! Then point sour sources.list to Woody and lather-rinse-repeat.