Whaaaa? I started with 3.5, but I've never played without a map and tokens of some kind. Color Spray can't be adjudicated fairly without seeing exactly whom it covers, and what sacrifices must be made to ensure it doesn't hit allies.
Playing without a map and minis was pretty common prior to 3e. In my experience, playing without a map and minis tends to speed up the game and put more emphasis on exploration, puzzle-solving, role-playing, and the other non-combat parts of the game. Some groups like this, some don't. It's a matter of preference.
Without a map and minis, spells like Color Spray would be adjudicated by the DM using his best judgment. The DM also might give the player a choice such as, "You can hit two enemies for sure. You think you might be able to get three, but there's a decent chance you'll hit the party's fighter if you go for three. What do you do?"
I enjoy both 4e and PF, and I run them both. I'm more likely to buy PF adventures, because DMing 4e is a breeze. As far as 1e and retroclones: they were a fad that our group quickly tired of when we realized that players would always be dying, and it was pointless to get attached to or spend effort on a given character.
It's well within the spirit of the old editions for the DM to adjust the rules of the game to fit his group/campaign. If your group finds that 1e is too lethal, the DM can make some adjustments: characters can receive max hit points at 1st level, save-or-die effects like poison can be toned down, raise dead might be available for a reasonable price at the local temple, etc.