Back in the 90s, when I played Second Edition (this was the edition I started with), my friends and I almost always used 4d6, drop the lowest, re-roll 1s, and arrange to taste when rolling up characters. Max HP were generally awarded at first level. I usually played elves, most commonly elven wizards. I often came up with relatively intricate back stories for characters before play, and our characters rarely died (though we did not consciously run a “low lethality” game; such things were not considered). We enjoyed the process of rolling dice, mostly for the variation they introduced, but we didn’t want randomness to rob us of whatever our predetermined vision was.
By that point in TSR’s history, many of the core elements of the original game had become obscured or removed. For example, some of our characters had animal companions or other minions, but we didn’t really play with hirelings. We scorned random encounters, never used reaction rolls, didn’t use hex maps, and ignored all manner of other early techniques (mostly, now that I understand them, to the detriment of our games). This was also certainly affected by the amateur thespian advice littered around the Second Edition books, and the rise of the White Wolf Storyteller games around the same time (which all the older, more sophisticated kids were playing). I flirted a bit with The World of Darkness in high school, but even at that time D&D was always my game of choice.
I wonder, though, if play style is somewhat generational, not in terms of when you were born, but in terms of maturity level. I started playing during my adolescence, and much of one’s life during that period is about defining yourself. Thus, I think there is a strong pull towards wish fulfillment play (“this is what I want to be”). Gary and Dave, when they originally developed D&D, were obviously not in that sort of mental space. They were already mature adults, and were building an intricate game informed by their wargaming experience. There is still a strong strain of childlike wonder present, but that is different than wish fulfillment. To perhaps oversimplify, if adolescence is about self creation, then maturity is about self discovery. The parallels with “character builds” and its alternative “development through play” should be obvious, I think.