Quite honestly, I didn't even know about the change until well after the fact. I'd been playing the games for nearly a decade prior to my jump to 4th gen, but never really paid much attention to the difference in Special and Physical attacks. Even when I first realized that Pokemon had seperate Attack and Special Attack stats on Sapphire, I just assumed that Special Attack was for STAB moves, and Attack for everything else. It seemed logical enough, so I never bothered looking any further into it.
Now that I actually do understand the Physical/Special split, it really changed the game for the better. Things like Bite never made sense as a Special move, and vice versa with moves like Swift and Gust. Just like Hikari, I'm almost a little hesitant to go back and play some of my older games, since I'm so accustomed to the better system that we have now.