Only in hindsight do I realize how crazy IT was during the last ten years of the 20th century -- and how lucky I am to have cut my IT chops back then. In most shops, the rules surrounding x86 computing were scant, in contrast to endless procedures protecting AS/400s and mainframes. So all kinds of inventive, homegrown solutions emerged to address the brand-new problems brought about by the Internet boom.
Think back to 1995: Windows 95 launched in August of that year, Windows NT 4 launched in 1996, Red Hat Linux 2.0 was released, FreeBSD 2.0.5 appeared, and many of the thousands of small dial-up ISPs in the United States ran on BSDi 2.0.1. Google didn't exist; everyone sharp used Alta Vista. Usenet was massive and the concept of firewall-plus-NAT was foreign to most organizations.
Those were the days of gonzo IT. Back then we were writing the rules as we went. We were developing the foundations of what we now think of as IT using duct tape and bailing wire. It was a period of constant innovation at fundamental levels. So many problems and requirements had no official solution that we had to build those solutions from whole cloth.
That type of thinking seldom arises in modern IT -- the determination to fix a problem yourself, rather than just purchase a solution that (sort of) addresses the issue. Back then, when problems emerged or functionality beckoned, most often no commercial product would do much good, so we developed solutions using whatever tools were available. An awful lot of Perl was written during those years.
Of course, plenty of those homegrown fixes were slipshod, but that's not really the point. The fact that those solutions were developed internally gave admins and developers an opportunity to grow as they worked without a template or an instruction manual. They were improvising, not just reading the music, and that led to better IT as a whole.
These days, IT is less about developing solutions to problems and more about adapting problems to fit purchased solutions. We're coloring by numbers most of the time.