tl;dr: I would argue, based on experience, that today's programming languages make it much easier to get the job done than used to be the case back then. As a result, programmers today don't have to be as good (i.e. lower barrier of entry) to write programs as programmers of the past had to be. So, it is less of an elite profession ... and it is not necessarily a bad thing.
I first encountered programming in the late 70s, when I learned Fortran in a college level course. I did not have much opportunity to use it then, but I found it fairly straightforward to use. I hardly used it, nor did any other programming until the late 80s.
In the late 80s, I had to relearn Fortran to do numerical work, which I did for a couple of years. Again, I found it very straightforward.
After I moved to a new job (solitary university prof with no research budget) I needed to do some numerical work and could not get a (free) Fortran compiler. I learned C and could easily translate (in my brain) algorithms that I knew how to program in Fortran; it was not quite as straightforward ... but it was fairly easy. (In other words: C was not the best tool for the job.) Then, I got a copy of Numerical Recipes in C ... and it was (at the time) as though it was written in a completely different language, one that was definitely not suited for its purpose. Thankfully, I got the results I needed and could put that behind.
In the mid 90s, I learned Java to write applets for teaching concepts to students. Using Java was not pleasant, as I found it rather verbose and a bit like having a straightjacket on.
I did not program for 10 years. Then, around 2004 I stumbled upon this language called Python ... and found that programming in it was incredibly straightforward. Fortran made numerical code easy to write (by design); Python made everything easy to write. It was so much fun, that I picked up programming as a hobby.
Since then, I've learned a few other programming languages and found that having the right tool for the job makes the job easier (duh!) ... and that there are a lot more useful tools (read: programming languages) today than back then. So, you don't have to be as good today as you had to be back then to write programs that actually do stuff.