Re: @Geoffrey W
" I started writing programs back in the 8-bit days"
Me too. ( SC/MP, 6502, 6809, 68000) . Tried Linux back in ~~1995 and have been using it ever since.
Try a USB/DVD as suggested or install into Virtualbox if you have a capable enough machine. Another cheap route is to buy a Rasp. Pi - once configured (using a monitor/TV, keyboard and mouse for convenience ) you can run it just from a laptop/desktop with a USB cable to provide power and an ethernet cable to provide connectivity to run a shell, virtual desktop or whatever.