I get this, a little bit, although I didn't get to have the same experence. About 10 years ago I was shopping for servers and started talking to some people at Sun. One thing that amazed me is that they were all so happy. The other is just that I increasingly got the feeling that I didn't really know shit about servers because of my only having experence with PC/Intel type hardware. I know the mainframe type people say the same types of things, hot swap everything, machines that could run for years and were expected to do so, it wasn't a wow, it was a duh to do that... The whole env just made me feel like yeah, this kind of pride and high goals is what makes me feel good about doing any job. It is so missing today in most any place I have worked.
What seems to be the sad fact, you can admire the pretty fish and feel good about what it ads to the world or eat it and you have a meal, you can do a supiour job and really be proud of your work and save some money too, but that still looks crappy next to ANY short term gain and most people you can work for will eat the fish and yours too.