you say "beautiful" and "simple" in conjunction with "init scripts". Unless you mean systemd service files (which are indeed simple and beautiful) I think there is something wrong with your English. Bash is a ridiculous solution for describing the behavior of services and if you've ever compared a 100 line bash script with a 5 line systemd file doing the same thing (just faster and more reliable), you'd never claim a shell script to be 'simple' or 'beautiful'.
Same with xf86config - terrible, terrible example. Sjees, how I hated those files. Now, things just work...
Sound card - yeah, it was beautiful - every time you added an audio device you had to reboot and find out what dspX device Linux had decided to give to your headset and build in audio cards this time. Now, with PulseAudio, the device shows up at runtime and once you've configured it once, next time the settings take effect immediately upon plugging in the headset. How is the old method better, again?
Yes, we can do more today than 15 years ago, AND it is MUCH easier to understand. The ways used to adapt sysVinit to enable faster booting and handling of plugging in devices should give a hint to that - terribly complicated to bend a static system so that it can survive in a dynamic world. It's incredibly nobody made a decent replacement of sysV when USB came on the market - it's crazy it took so long!