On the one hand, both a Ferrari and a Model-T are really fundamentally about getting you from point A to point B. The majority of the progress between the Model-T and the Ferrari have to do with unnecessary optimization (going bazillion miles per hour) and tangental/incidental value-adds (being red, having air conditioning, etc.)
On the other hand, an inablity to discern qualitative differences is exactly why every discussion about Apple on Slashdot turns into "My Rio did everything the iPod did and more! It isn't fair! Wake up sheeple!" Maybe everything we do with Google Plus we could have done with email in the 80s, but does it matter if all the end user wanted to be able to do is put their signature in lilac Comic Sans?
Where we are today (in any field, on any topic) is a mixture of good decisions, practical solutions and random selections. Every pundit (and everyone on HN is a pundit) thinks they know which things arose intentionally and which things were just noise. I hesitatingly suggest that a large portion of the intentional arose from the desire for good looking stuff. I double-plus hesitatingly suggest that an alternate world in which Plan 9's view (everything is a filesystem, every user is command-line fluent) or in which Smalltalk's view (every user is a programmer, everything is live and can be live-debugged) would be interesting and offer certain benefits. Nobody will ever really know what that alternate world would be like—besides that it would probably look like absolute shit—and I think it's unfortunate, in the bittersweet way that unrealized potentials always are.
But I take heart knowing that at least in this world, with very few exceptions, technologies can become marginalized but they can't really be killed anymore.