The earliest CPU that deserves to be considered part of the x86 family is the 8086, although the 8086 was itself derived from still earlier designs. A low-cost variant of the 8086, the 8088, was used in the first IBM PCs. The next Intel CPU development used in PCs was the 80286,
Part i which was used in the IBM PC-AT, among other computers. Aside from some experimental and limited ports, Linux can't run on computers of this vintage; the CPUs lack important features that Linux requires, such as 32-bit memory addressing.
The 8086 and 80286 used 16-bit memory addressing, meaning that they could directly address 216, or 65,536 bytes. To address more memory, these CPUs used special extended addressing modes that allowed the CPU to specify which of several 64KB segments to use. Linux assumes it has direct access to at least a 32-bit memory space, giving a theoretical limit of 232 bytes, or 4GB, for RAM. (Intel Pentium Pro and later CPUs use a 36-bit memory space, resulting in a theoretical 64GB address space, and some non-Intel CPUs have even larger memory spaces.)
If you have an 8086 or 80286 computer, the best advice I can give is to forget about using it with Linux, except perhaps as a "dumb terminal"—a text-based display you can use to run programs on another computer. Any of dozens of terminal programs can be used in this capacity.
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