Mark, if I may.....you seem to have fallen into one of the traps I did. You are implying that everyone should brew for the same reasons you do. Your thought process is great for you, but so far from why I brew. Pleaseunderstnd that not all homebrewers have the same goals and that different methods work for different people. It took me a long time to learn that.
You have I had been involved with this hobby for a long time. You have stuck with it with more consistency. Life changes caused me to stop brewing for two periods of time. When we started to brew, there were no such thing as a instant all-grain brewer. That was partly due to a lack of infrastructure, but mostly due to the amount of knowledge that needed to be acquired to brew all-grain beer. For example, I did not know anyone who brewed all-grain when I started to brew all-grain. The progress was kit beer (often "can and kilo" kits) -> extract-based recipes -> partial mashing -> all-grain. This progression was due in large part to how Charlie's book was laid out. At each step, important information was learned that allowed one to move on to the next stage. The biggest hurdle to getting to all-grain was equipment and adjusting to the reality that all-grain meant moving out of the kitchen, often brewing outside if one did not have a garage. What we refer to as brew burners today were known as camp stoves (Camp Chef) and crab/crawfish boliers (Cajun Cooker). These stoves were not purpose built for brewing. The Cajun-style crab/crawfish burners were little more than a pipe with a propane orifice. They looked and sounded like jet engines. There was no such thing as an off-the-shelf brewing kettle and large stockpots were only available through restaurant suppliers, which generally only did business-to-business sales, which is why the keggle was born. I do not understand why anyone would want to use a keggle in this day and age because they horribly inefficient from a fuel point, but many still do.
Contrast that reality with today, a person can walk into a homebrewing store, purchase a complete all-grain setup and software, and bypass acquiring almost of the knowledge that used to be necessary to get to all-grain. Is that person a brewer? He/she is not in book. He/she is living the "brewing lifestyle." I have seen the same darn thing happen in my other long-lived avocation, guitar. I have been playing lead and rhythm guitar since high school. I did the semi-professional, weekend warrior thing when I was young. Back then, we were musicians. Today, there is the "guitar lifestyle" where people who can barely play purchase expensive instruments and hang them on their walls like they are true musicians. Now, like owning an expensive guitar that one can barely play, it is becoming fashionable to become a brewer. However, unlike playing an instrument that requires having to spend time in the woodshed building one's chops to pass oneself off as a musician, all a person who is living the brewing lifestyle has to do is use software that will provide the information a brewer needed to know to brew an acceptable beer. In essence, brewing knowledge has been "canned" (often wrong, but that is another topic). One can argue that can and kilo kits were canned knowledge, but it was evident from the taste of the product that the canned knowledge was at the low water threshold.
In the end one is either passionate about one's pursuits or one is not. Most of the people on this forum are passionate about some aspect of brewing. However, there is no denying that the people who have been at it for a while have acquired all of the knowledge needed to brew without having to use software. From brewhouse math and physics to mastering quality control to mastering styles, I see that in a lot of posters. I never want to see this avocation lose the passion that advanced it to this point; therefore, once again, a group does not build itself up by dumbing things down. While I am not a brewing club kind of guy, I believe that the well-organized clubs provide a valuable service for new brewers. The Maltose Falcons are a prime example. While everyone who has ever been in that club could not be described as a hardcore brewer, there is no denying that that club has had a major impact on the hobby.