In his autobiography, Just for Fun, Linus mentions the "page-to-disk" feature that was pivotal in making Linux a worthy competitor to Minix and other UNIX clones of the day:
I remember that, in December, there was this guy in Germany who only had 2 megabytes of RAM, and he was trying to compile the kernel and he couldn't run GCC because GCC at the time needed more than a megabyte. He asked me if Linux could be compiled with a smaller compiler that wouldn't need as much memory. So I decided that even though I didn't need the particular feature, I would make it happen for him. It's called page-to-disk, and it means that even though someone only has 2 mgs of RAM, he can make it appear to be more using the disk for memory. This was around Christmas 1991.
Page-to-disk was a fairly big thing because it was something Minix had never done. It was included in version 0.12, which was released in the first week of January 1992. Immediately, people started to compare Linux not only to Minix but to Coherent, which was a small Unix clone developed by Mark Williams Company. From the beginning, the act of adding page-to-disk caused Linux to rise above the competition.
That's when Linux took off. Suddenly there were people switching from Minix to Linux.
Is he essentially talking about
swapping here? People with some historical perspective on Linux would probably know.