What is a Distribution?

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http://crunchbanglinux.org – I've been reading about the history of Debian and SLS and Ian Murdock, and listened to a few interviews with him. Of course I know what a GNU/Linux Distribution is, but what is it really? How would I "install" GNU/Linux without a distribution? Something like LFS? I'm not really wanting to do this (at this stage), but rather I wanted to know what it would entail -- what exactly did Ian Murdock do back in the early 1990s to make a distribution? (HowTos)