"Maybe because we actually did write web pages by hand, in notepad, we also felt obliged to really think about what we were creating. All that I know is that using the Internet has become a chore, not the delight that it was two decades ago."
Still using Notepad, although did upgrade to Notepad++ along the way. My simple site works fine, images aside. I got quite savvy with trimming down a few wordpress templates for a while, and managed to get jquery almost speedy. My site calls an html5 file, a css file, and that's it. The only external content is Google Analytics for simple stats. Pages are in the 50K to 150K range, with images.
I think the 'chore' to which you refer is 33% cloud services, 33% one size fits all websites with poor secondary web dev efficiency (thinking wordpress templates, jquery, multiple css calls), and 33% ads and spam.
The Internet is now a war between ad makers and ad blockers. Between those forcing useless content ahead of those struggling to get their useful content out there. Ok, so there are sites that force ads if you want to use them, but getting spammed video ads just for visiting (every time) is beyond the pale. The Internet was created for info sharing, and those willing to give their info freely have been drowned out by those that want to make a living from it.
Online news sites are no different. A couple of years back, I did a small survey of all the major new titles and the requests of all but a couple were more than 50% ads or trackers. If ads, spam and adult material disappeared from the Internet for a week, the lack of traffic would make the Internet a place of wonder, and we would demand it permanently banned when it resumed (well maybe not the last one...I'm not completely naive :D ).