We’re so lucky to have unlimited access to knowledge now. Want to learn Rust? Clojure? Svelte? Just google something and start reading.

We enjoy ultra-fast Internet access. Google. Medium. Stack Overflow. O’Reilly Learning that I love so much (free for all U of A students).

It was different when I was a teenager, striving to learn.

Back in 1998, in a small Siberian town, knowledge was a scarce commodity. We had only one book shop that sold programming books, and my mother could barely afford them with her modest university salary and a high inflation rate.

So she bought me one book that opened the door to the rest of them.

This book.

HTML 3.2 Starter Kit by Jerry Honeycutt and Mark Brown.

I read it, came back to the book store and offered them a free website in exchange for access to their bookshelves. They agreed. Of course, the website was very rustic (I was only 14!), but it worked, and they liked it.

Every week, I came to the shop to get new content for the website (sometimes on paper, sometimes on a floppy disk) and borrow a new book to read.

In a few months, I learned CSS, PHP and SQL from the books.

But I needed more. I needed the World Wide Web. Of course, it was not affordable for my family.

So, with that extended knowledge, I took the next step. I came to the office of the only local ISP and offered help with web development in exchange for a few hours of dial-up Internet access. They agreed and gave me an account with 30 hours per month.

I used my time wisely. I connected, opened several web pages in my Opera browser (images off for faster load) and disconnected right away. 5 min of connection time gave me 1-2 hours worth of reading, so those 30 hours felt like an unlimited monthly plan.

Now, with truly unlimited access to anything, we are incredibly lucky and privileged. But sometimes, I wonder. Maybe it was the scarcity that helped me learn to value the knowledge? Maybe it actually fueled my dedication to find ways to learn? So maybe I was lucky back then not to have everything I have now?