Yeah it was a great book. It was also a better time to learn programming in many ways in the past. Sure no internet to google. I didn't begin as early as you, my first computer was an Amiga 1000. But I had the advantage a lot of us had back then which is that the systems where quite simple and you could fiddle a lot with them.
If you programmed in C you could just set a pointer to point to some arbitrary point in memory and you could actually start to modify the video buffer or interact directly with various hardware.
That kind of direct access to hardware is lost today. Functionality exists under layers and layers of abstractions.
Not sure what you think but I did feel like Go brought back some of that old feeling of simplicity, but upgrading it for the modern age. That is why I think languages that can perhaps play on those same kind of strings has an opportunity to capture the imagination of C programmers.
But as you say, the ubiquity of the C language and all the skills surrounding it is hard to beat.
It will be interesting to see if something like Zig can make a dent. I think it is a great advantage that it tries to be as compatible as possible with C. I intend to try out writing some SDL code at some point to see what it is like interacting with C code.
I tried doing that with Julia, and thought it was awful. Dealing with union types and pointers such from a high level language isn't that great. For simple function calls with plain old data types it works great but yeah... SDL was not a great match. Curious if Zig will be.