Before the days of websites and user experience, the interaction designer's job was focused. The term wasn't user experience, it was usability, and there was one goal: make it simpler and easier for users to get their tasks done. The design wasn't of websites, but software applications. 99% of the software applications were being used by people to get something done: write a report, analyze financial data, or sell an apartment building. There were lots of constraints on what the technology could do, and most of the technology was largely unusable for the everyday user who was not a computer expert. It took a lot of negotiation to make any interface changes, since programming was cumbersome and every change meant someone had to rewrite programming code.
Interesting analytical piece on the increasing complexity of determining appropriate levels of engagement and entertainment in interface design.