I first read the GNU manifesto in 1985 or 1986, via a BBS. I had very limited access to BBS calling, since they were all a long distance call away. I was basically teaching myself programming by reading books and occasionally downloading text files over a 1200 bit/s modem.
I also had almost no access to any community of programmers.
But the manifesto had a huge impact on me. It has pretty much decided much of the direction of my life. I've spent much of my life to software freedom.