Recently I was thinking about the library episode of Avatar: The Last Airbender. In this episode the heros go on a search for a mythical hidden library that was said to contain vast amounts of knowledge, just about any discovery ever made in that world was recorded in that library. They reach the library along with a scholar guy and are greeted by a giant owl which is the guardian of the library. After the main characters learn what they need to learn the guardian decides that they, along with all other humans, are unworthy of the library and sinks the library into the ground. Before escaping the main characters find the scholar dude again and urge him to come with him so that they can escape. The scholar refuses saying that he had spent his whole life searching for the library and now that he has found it he would rather die in it than leave it forever.
This has never made sense to me, this guy has just spent his entire life looking for this place which was filled with lost knowledge, and when he finaly finds some of it he opts to let it remain lost rather than bring it to the rest of the world. Why would this guy do this? How does this help anyone?
So today I started looking into video games with ASCI graphics (symbols like numbers and letters and such) and I've actually had a small game I wanted to make but the way I initially wanted to display things wasn't working out, but after spending a day learning about games like Cataclysm: Dark Days Ahead and Dwarf Fortress I decided I wanted to give ASCI graphics a try, especially since I already knew how to do most of the stuff already.
So I set out to learn the one thing I didn't know how to do which was to specify the color of text that a C or C++ terminal program outputs. I didn't think this would be to hard, Cataclysm was written in C++ and I'm sure Dwarf Fortress was as well, both of these games (and others like them) are also still being actvely developed so I knew there were still people doing this, and I'm sure that thirty years ago outputting colored text would have been a rather common thing for programers to know how to do. Surely this knowledge wouln't be hard to come by.
Well after two hours I'd managed to read a few articles that explained multiple ways of doing it, but none of these other ways actually worked. I also managed to find some code a guy put up on Stack Overflow that did work, but he gave no explaination on how it worked. I played with his code a bit, then I understood what I needed to look for next and I managed to stumble across an article that was able to point me that everything worked with the use of ANSI escape sequences, but that article clearly gave an incomplete list of valid ANSI escape sequences that I could use so I put that term in my serch engine and the only useful site that came up was Wikipedia. Wikipedia is great and all, but reading stuff from a table in Wikipedia (especially one with a few dozen rows) is not fun. I knew I would need to refrence one of the tables in there rather frequently, so hours after I set out on a quest for documentation on something I found myself having to write my own because while I did find everything I needed, all of it was acattered accross several hard to find places. (Maybe I should write my own tutorial here so I'll know that at least one exists.)
There exist several skills and things that were common knowledge in the past, a lot of them have become obsolete, but a surprising amount aren't. I couldn't beleive that something as simple as writing a program to output colored text was something that would take that much digging to figure out. Who knows what other things we will find ourselves needing to do that the world has forgotten. Always spend time learning and be sure to use what you learn, and if neccecary document it, and teach others how to do it as well. We never know what skills the world will lose next.