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On such low spec hardware you don't want to run a graphical system. Not even Tinycore will run on that (after starting up with only the base GUI system and a graphical terminal running it consumes already 34MB). You will get the best results with a CLI only system that is heavily stripped down or built up especially for that system.
But to be honest, most likely you will find better systems in the trash, I wouldn't consider to tinker with such a system, besides may be for a learning purpose (creating an embedded system).
TinyCore FAQ states it needs about 46MB to boot, even sitting idle in a VM it uses about 35MB so it probably wont work. If you just want a command line Linux then you're options could widen but if you want a GUI it's going to be a struggle. You may want to look at a version of a distro that was released a few years back and try installing one of these as the boot/running requirements may be less.
You may want to try ttylinux, it's command line and may just do the job - see requirements.
Right. I have a couple of old systems here, waiting for a purpose for them. The oldest currently is a K6-II, but I also have a Pentium 3, some Athlon XPs, an iMac G3 and a PowerMac G3 blue/white. They make good jukeboxes and work good for people that only want basic functions, like mail, office and surfing the net (without Flash of course). Thinking about it, I think Linux on one of the G3s will be the next thing to do.
I think the move away from it comes from the fact that "older hardware" isn't what it used to be. When DSL came out, "older hardware" was PI and PIIs, now we have single core hardware laying around that is over 2ghz and being given away. When 16mb was "low RAM" the 2.4 Kernel and basic applications made sense, but now "low RAM" is 128 or even 256mb.
If you don't want a GUI (and you're not going to get one with 32MB), ttylinux sounds interesting. Of course, you could also try FreeDOS: primitive compared to Linux, but you've got all those old games and even a graphical web-browser (Arachne).