The programmers before us were the exact same as the programmers of today and they will be the exact same as the one's that come after us. The only difference between them is whose shoulders they stood upon and what they were be able to do using the tools at hand.
Programmers of the 60s were happy just to get things to add up. The guys in the 80s squealed with glee at GUIs. The guys in the 90s made the internet what it is today. And the guys of the 2010s will bring AI and robotics into the main stream.
Everyone glues things together - it's how creation works (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steven_Johnson_(author)#Where_G...). The only difference between generations is the things you have available to glue together. Sometimes you glue together a stick and a rock to make a spear, and other times you glue together a machine gun, a camera, and a computer.
I do agree with you that people tend to glorify the past. I also agree with the author that it was way, way more difficult not even that long ago when you couldn't get answers by just typing into google. I think that did weed out most people from the occupation because you had to do a ton of reading (not to mention buying those expensive programming books!)
On the other hand you could say that I wasted a lot of time thinking about things that were inconsequential. Now I'm able to focus my attention on the true work rather than getting hung up on the minor details.
There are still problems to solve, they're just on a different layer for a lot of us. You might even say that because of all of our frameworks and libraries that our problems are even more complicated.