When was the first Blender version released? I have been an avid user of blender for a few years but I still have not found out how long it has been around. I not only would like to know when it was released but try to run it. If someone could provide a link that would be great.
Blender celebrates January 2, 1994 as its birth day, based on the timestamps from the first backup of the codebase. It was first used in production around 1 year later, in Q2 1995.
During its first years, it wasn't free and open source. It became free thanks to a crowfounding campaign in 2002, when the first version was released to the public.
Judging by the source repository on the website the first ever open release is probably Blender 2.26, available here. In the releases repository you can find versions as old as Blender 1.0! I doubt you'll be able to use it though, it's just for IRIX.
[Edit Jan 2020] The code from the earliest backup (definitely not in a releasable state) has been made available too: here.
If you can't get old versions to work, there is somebody on Youtube that in 2014 tried to go back in time, reporting on their experiments: Blender 2.40, Blender 2.27, Blender 1.80. Then they said «I probably do not want to continue to Blender 1.60, because in this version, I cannot save files.»