In the early 90's GNU/Linux systems consisted of little more than a beta-quality Linux kernel and a small collection of software ported from the GNU project. It was a true hacker's operating system. There were no CD-ROM's or GUI installation tools; everything had to be compiled and configured by the end user. Being a Linux Expert meant knowing your system inside and out.
Toward the middle of the decade several GNU/Linux distributions began appearing. One of the first was Slackware in 1993 and since then there have been many others. Even though there are many "flavors" of Linux today, the main purpose of the distribution remains the same. The distribution automates many of the tasks involved in GNU/Linux installation and configuration taking the burden off of the system administrator. Being a Linux Expert now means knowing which button to click in the GUI administration tool.
Recently there has been a yearn for a return to the "good old days" of Linux when men were men, sysadmins were hardcore geeks and everything was compiled from source code. A notable indication of this movement was the publication of the Linux From Scratch HOWTO version 1.0 by Gerard Beekmans in 1999. Being a Linux Expert once again means knowing how to do it yourself.
For more historical information, see Ragib Hasan's "History of Linux" at http://ragib.hypermart.net/linux/