Rather than just listing the specs needed for DSL, read about Nick Hill and Paul Knight's adventure with DSL and a couple of 486s.
This message was sent to John 19 Oct 2003 by Nick Hill. Paul Knight and him did a good amount of experimenting with Dam Small and retro hardware. Their activities culminated in a "Retro Hardware Party" where they ran DSL on a 486SX33 and a 486DX2, both with 16MB of ram.
Quote from mail:
This message is being sent from the damn small machine using Sylpheed.
We successfully used a machine- a 486SX33 16Mb ram to surf the web and send email. Even used it as a remote station to edit pictures using the GIMP over a broadband link. Not exactly fast, but can be done. Takes 10-15 seconds to render news.bbc.co.uk.
The machine couldn't cope with an Ogg Vorbis stream at 11Khz/19Kbit mono. However, I tried with a 486DX2 processor / 16Mb and it worked.. Just! The missing FPU on the 486SX makes a difference for multimedia streams! The 486SX took 3 minutes to decode half one second. The DX2, however, coped in real time.
We held a retro hardware 'party' this evening, complete with chocolate biscuits and tea.
So now we know- web surfing with a modern operating system on atticware can be done- and we now are no longer restricted to tupperware parties- we have atticware parties!
I have attached a couple of pictures from our party. One shows the dmesg screen showing the processor kicking out an amazing 16.58 BogoMips and the 16Mb system ram can be seen. I have also included a photo of me and paul proudly showing off our atticware multitasking games, a (paused) instance of XMMS and 2 browser windows.
I have included an archive of the output of dmesg and ps ax.
BTW Glinks would not work on the SX chip but works on the DX chip.
Here are some pics that they included.