People back then were not better programmers. Programming was just different. Their programs were just as buggy which is why everything used to crash all the time.
I'd go so far as to say back then people were in general worse programmers. Not from a problem solving sense, that's just down to the individual, but simply by having a much smaller foundation of knowlage to build upon.
Programming is a complex, relativly immature skill, and as with any skill it takes a few generations before all the lessons really get learnt.
Programmers now have the benefit of the many years of learning. The increases in memory and computational power allow languages with features that would've been impossible 30-40 years ago, (Rust springs to mind here).
Thing is, we're still only at the beginning, really.
In another 20-30 years programmers will be better still and the tools they used will have evolved further to eliminate more common classes of easy mistakes.