Yes, we had automation in the '90s — I wrote quite a bit of it myself! — but the landscape has drastically improved. For one thing, the industry is now embracing it, and with the embrace, a name. The name is not being "sold" in any way that I can see — no one is getting rich by bandying around the buzzword. It's not being sold by anyone I'm aware of as some kind of silver bullet, and anyone who believes in an IT panacea deserves what he gets. It is however being used to sell an idea, that automation in the '90s and before was a good thing, and that we should probably do more of it. DevOps means more than just automation, and in large part, these are also improvements in the industry. We're better now, partly because we have to be.
For that matter, the cloud is just a name that describes the commodification of computing resources (whether that be actual compute, storage, whatever). Yes, yes, the marketing blowhards of the world have misused and bastardized the word, but that doesn't mean they've ruined it, or that it never meant anything.
I have no idea why you think Chef and Puppet are broken piles of ruby scripts, but for the record, they're free. Also, in neither case is anyone implying or saying that they invented automation. Having a nice framework to use is a definite improvement, though.