Hope this is the correct forum
This would be a first for me, so if it really is a daft idea, just say so; I can take it .
Yes it is.
OK, short and to the point . Another question, then: would it be possible to include the missing drivers in the latest kernel? I've read quite a lot about developing linux (not necessarily a PCLOS flavour) for older machines, but don't quite understand the logic of that, if the older drivers (which these older machines may need) have been excluded from the build. Am probably missing something here .
It is entirely possible to build a Linux operating system that is fully compatible with your hardware, but you'd have to use older versions of all the software; ones that were contemporaneous to the time when the hardware was new, or just a couple of years old. Things like the X server would have to be versions no longer in common use, but compatible with the via driver in question, and the kernel used would have to be new enough to contain the drivers you need, but old enough to run compatibly with the older X server. All of the core packages would also have to be compatible with each other, and the kernel, in order for software to compile properly.
Your best bet for something like you suggest would be to find the newest older version of a static distro (your choice which one) that still contains a kernel with the appropriate discontinued drivers you need, install it, then try compiling newer versions of the various applications to gain any available security updates and newer features. When you get to a point where you are satisfied with the stability and performance, and have the applications you need upgraded as far as you can go, stop fiddling with the OS and just enjoy what you have. Being as there would still be some known security issues remaining, I would definitely run behind a firewall, were I you.
Just as a FYI, I still have an old SUSE 8.2, and a Mandrake 10.1, on a hard drive in an older computer, and I still use them because they were both nice stable systems on that hardware, but neither will run on any modern hardware. Newer hardware gets newer software, and kernels with newer drivers appropriate to that hardware. Driver modules no longer compatible with the newer software get dropped from the mix. That's just the way it works, and why you can't use a rolling release that is continuously upgrading, on that particular piece of hardware.