Its not about the tech!
As you admit you did not get it back then. Still don't. THe success of Linux in the marketplace is not about the technology, how many desktop environments, ease of use, the UI etc. We long ago passed that point.
Even back in the era of Redhat 5.1 when I got started with it, Linux was just as good, and even better than Windows 98. That is if you could get it already installed, tested and configured on a desktop computer.
The reason Linux has never conquered the desktop has to do with Microsoft's market power, consumer inertia and ignorance and the oligopolistic nature of the tech industry. It has nothing to do with whether Linux is technically better than Windows or not.
I was reminded of this point some time back when I ran into woman at a computer store in the US (Bestbuy as I recall). She had taken her computer in to be fixed and we struck up a conversation. She told me that she had just spent over USD200 on her computer at Bestbuy, because it was running slow and here she was again, having to bring it in for another tune up. I gently told her that her problem was all the malware and viruses that accompany Windows and that a switch to Linux or even a mac would cure that. All I got was a blank stare. Instead she wanted to know which was the best antivirus that she could buy. After all the money she had thrown away getting her computer repeatedly cleaned, she wanted to know if she could throw more money at it. Getting rid of the basis of the problem, the operating system, did not even register with her.
That in a nutshell is why its so hard to get a bottom up groundswell of Linux adoption, particularly in marketer subservient cultures like the US and to a lesser extent Europe. The consumer ignorance and inertia in places like the US supports a rich business ecosystem composed of places like Bestbuy that will take any amount of money off you to clean your computer, sell you antivirus and ultimately a new computer, but will never tell you, get Linux. Companies like the big vendors, HP, Dell etc who make the faster computers so you can run Windows+apps+malware without any noticeable slow down.
Large scale Linux adoption on the desktop will come, not when Linux is technically better than Windows, which I believe it already is, but when Microsoft's death lock on the industry and the large computer vendors is broken. Its happening very slowly.
In the end though, Linux is at a serious disadvantage in the consumer culture of the US and Europe. Linux is a hacker operating system and hacking is the opposite of consumerism.
The basic principle of consumerism is that somebody else produces and the consumer consumes. The producer or marketer is active/dominant and the consumer is passive/subservient always waiting with bated breath for the next wonder product from Apple, Microsoft etc.
In contrast the basic principle of hacking is that the hacker is their own producer and consumer. They consume as they produce. They are therefore active and dominant in both consumption and production.
The burden of responsibility that a hacker OS places on the computer 'consumer' may well be a bridge too far for consumers in places like the US and will likely be the greatest long term limiting factor to Linux adoption on the desktop.