Upload & Sell: On
To be fair to the D1-shot, it does certainly seem to be:
a) taking the WB from the fill-flash you used
b) misrepresented from Adobe RGB into sRGB.
Assigning Adobe RGB (giving more red strength and deeper blue) and correcting WB and a slight over exposure made it look like this:
Using digital is also about knowing your equipment and development, just like back in the film days. It's just quicker and more accessible.
regarding correcting the images - yes, today, not too hard to do. Back in 2000, this was more like black magic at best in Photoshop 4.0 or whatever we used. Clearly, imaging software has come a long way since then to accomodate digital cameras. This was in an era when we all carried slide scanners in our luggage, scanned each night in the hotel, knew all the local photo labs that were open late on weekends.
In 2000, nobody shooting that D1 had much of a clue about things like white balance - no fill flash here. same car/colors:
And just like you, with today's Photoshop, I can convert this to something nice, too - camera raw, white balance picker on the neutral colors, add some contrast, saturation, black levels, vibrance, and the ugliest digicam picture does come to life. Nothing funky going on with RGP or sRGB or whatever - just a flat image that doesn't have the proper white balance.
However, that's the thing - all digital images you saw back then looked like the one above, because nobody had the tools or even the time to do these corrections. The D1 images were the "nice" stuff you saw, so we found the above acceptable, and thought that is what you're gonna get. So we only shot the digital stuff for fast turnaround.
Another factor back in the early days was that we only shot digital when the light was not worth shooting film, so we would save the processing costs in those sessions. Nobody would touch our digital images for anything but tiny web news anyway. When the light was great, it was time for film, because only a proper Provia or Velvia slide would sell to an ad agency, which is where the money was in that type of shooting. The whole world was still thinking drum scans and film when the D1 arrived.
So I stand corrected - the D1 was probably much better than our images in 2000 showed, but part of the evolution of these tools includes the software and user awareness of what you need to do to correct images. When you just dropped $4995 on a camera body, you didn't expect to have to learn a whole new set of skills, plus, those images, as flat as they look today, were among the nicest stuff you would see online that didn't come of a film scanner, so we didn't even consider investigating what may be wrong with our output.
So for me, the original above is what digital cameras were like in 2000 - that's what was published. The Canon guys shot their $13,000 bodies and their images were even worse, but they had voice annotation