You can download and use, if you have Mac, Xcode for free, only having to pay the $99 if you want to load your app onto the device. I'd say this compares pretty favorably to the dev tool pricing of old.
About the only /practical/ argument I see here is that you can't program an iPhone or iPad using the device itsself, but that's not even entirely true - there are web sites out there that let you code in web technologies from a browser (hrm, maybe that's a business idea - code iPad web apps from the iPad Safari...).
"If this was any time after the 80s, the BASIC that the machine came with was /not/ the same thnig that was used to make professional programs. A C compiler or assembler would cost you more than $99 in today's money."
"only having to pay the $99 if you want to load your app onto the device. I'd say this compares pretty favorably to the dev tool pricing of old."
You have to pay 99$ per year. What dev tool pricing "of old" had an annual license fee of 20% of the device cost to load your program onto your device?
To be clear, I'm not saying things wouldn't be better if this was all free of charge, or that Apple's tight grip on the platform is great for society (I think that's a different argument entirely). I'm just saying that the argument that everything was better and more accesible to new users in the old days is a bit of a 'rose tinted spectacles' one.