For the historians. There certainly indication that Debian did have something going during 1994.
"Debian GNU/Linux 0.93 will be released on September 25, 1995, the
Debian Project announced today. This release will be the sixth of
version 0.93, which has been under development for over a year. It
represents the first official release from the Debian Project since
. Release 5 of version 0.93, an unofficial BETA release,
has been available to the public since March 1995, and has received
rave reviews from its users."
The mailing list go back to Feb 1994. There is an indication that there was a version 0.91 certainly out by Feb 1994, and maybe a 0.92 being worked on.
However, this article also mentions that something was available to download since the time of Oct 1st 1994.
This article is also interesting to mention its slackware influence, since dpkg was supposed to be able to use slackware packages.
Here is a 0.91 changelog
"15 Sep 93: Debian Linux 0.01 ALPHA released (pre-ALPHA)"
So that is definitely the genesis, but 26 Jan 94, version 0.90 is considered the public beta.
This helps fill in the gaps of what was going on.
So development started in the summer of 1993. 0.91 was probably the first real release (Jan 94), and 0.93 Beta in ~mid 1995 (with 6 patch releases?) was popular for a while. There was no real version 1.0 (accidentally released before it was ready), so version 1.1 on June 17th, 1996 was the big one, and it's clear it is the next version after 0.93 because it is mentioned in the upgrade instructions.