You are on point with most of this. Econ was painfully limited, and the game tempo was generally much slower.
You are right that a full rig was nearly impossible. However, this was balanced by the fact that rezzing ice is a serious drain. Often running was about getting your Killer out to avoid painful face checks and then forcing the Corp to make tough choices.
Early ANR was a serious economy war, which is why criminal options like Desperado and Gabe dominated. Forged Activation, Emergency Shutdown, Inside Job, and Account Siphon were all much more potent. Any one of those timed well could swing a game irrevocably to the Runner.
Before Plastcrete, Scorched Earth was terrifying. HB had the first FA archetype, and NBN wasn’t threatening until Beale came out. Jinteki suffered the most, considered the back of the pack for two full cycles until it got a deluxe of its own.
Corporations were generally believed to be on their heels in overall balance until Jackson arrived to start his cult.
Those are my memories, at least, of the early metas.