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A lot said about "old school" that I remember, some, not so much. Games differed. A couple of things I recall though and haven't seen too much on in this thread...
It wasn't about the PCs progression, it was about exploring a world. It could be a dungeon / nearby village or a massive city and huge setting but what was around the bend was important and unknown. And exciting. Exploration. And mapping it yourself :)
And character "story / backstory" really was written in game not pre game. What was important was what happened with your friends. That's where the stories were.
Campaigns weren't meant to go "1-20", they just went. Until they didn't.
Our games were sandbox, very little overarching save the world type stories. Possibly because getting to high level took forever without a "Monty Haul" DM :) Players set their goals in the world and the DM expanded his game to accommodate the players direction.
I run the same homebrew campaign today that I started with in original D&D. It's changed edition by edition (except 4th - I stuck with 3.5 and then PF). I'm not sure if it's really "old school" or "new". I'm immersed in it, it's built a history and mythology for itself. The adventures practically write themselves (and I have recycled material on occasion). And it saves me from spending a small fortune on adventure paths :D