Admittedly, I like the soft rubber surfaces they put on the ground. It's much less messy than dirt, sand, or wood mulch, and it doesn't get soggy in the rain. But for the equipment itself, the old stuff made you study and react to your environment. Stainless steels slides that heated up to 150 degrees in the summer? You learned how to bend your knees and lean back so only your clothing touched. High-speed merry go rounds? You learned the limits of your tolerance for dizziness. Adventuresome, multi-level labrynths made of coarse wooden logs and thick chains? You learned how to hang on, and how to move as to avoid slivers. You didn't try to slide down the fire pole until you were big enough to hack it.
Oh yeah, and tall swing sets that you could REALLY get altitude on. If you got enough, and launched at just the right moment, you'd get the briefest moment of upward flight before you reached apogee and fell back down.
Look, we could've made playground equipment prettier without taking all the fun and adventure out of it. We failed. I suspect it's the insurance companies' faults. Those people need to DIAF.