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I agree. Sure, some of the of the screens look dated on the old releases, especially the status bar and the widgets, but the way it works is remarkably unchanged.
Not complaining though, i like the Holo look&feel and i think it gets things done easily without much fuss, the only thing that bugs me is the default icons, to me they look like something from Linux in the 90s or early 00s, especially the phone icon. Luckily that was fixable with the right launcher.
I've owned a handset that's ran pretty much every version of Android (as my main phone as well). So I've seen the evolution first hand. And personally I don't think icons were that bad in real life. But you have to bare in mind the competition back then looked worse (iOS being the exception).
What I always hated was the mesh background that sat behind the icons. Even back when Android 1.5 and 1.6 was new, I thought that looked dated. In fact I'd go further and say down right crappy. I didn't like the graphic for the handle of the icon draw either (though I did like the usability of it).