It’s shocking how many misconceptions about Advanced Dungeons & Dragons you pick up partly from the way the videogames implemented things, partly from how many people glossed over significant sections of the rules.
For instance, the Identify spell? Really kind of difficult to use. It just recently came up in my Roll20 game (where the players have finally found some honest-to-goodness magic items but need someone to identify them.) I’m convinced a lot of people just skim the description, if they read it at all, because they go “oh, that’s the one which identifies magic items” and that’s enough for their purposes. Oh, no no no no no! In 2nd Edition, Identify requires you to spend 8 hours prior to casting the spell handling and preparing the items, and then gives you a 10% chance per caster level (maximum odds of 90%, 96-100% gives you false information) of finding out something about the item. If it’s a multi-purpose item, you only get to find out about one purpose. If you fail to discover anything about an item because you didn’t make the roll, you can’t try again on the same item until you have gone up a level. You need to expend a 100gp pearl each time you cast it (if you include a luckstone then you can get more detailed readings), and you temporarily lose 8 Constitution (and may lose consciousness) once the spell is done. You don’t get precise details of weapon and armour bonuses, or of number of charges left.
In some respects this is kinder than 1st Edition, in some respects less so. 1st Edition did not have a flat 8 hour preparation time but had a variable preparation time which you only need to do once so long as the item remains in the caster’s possession (though the Constitution drop is unchanged), and the wording in 1st Edition implies that you can only do it for 1 item (in 2nd Edition you can try 1 item per caster level). In principle, the odds of success in 1st Edition are better for 1st and 2nd level casters, even at 3rd level and worse at higher levels compared to 2nd Edition, but in 1st Edition the magic item gets a saving throw to deny information to you, so in that respect 1st Edition is both more awkward to adjudicate and less kind to the caster. In addition, in 2nd Edition preparation merely requires handling the item – more than enough to kick off curses if it’s a nasty item – but 1st Edition requires you to actually wear rings or other garments and otherwise handle items as you would to actually use them, making it substantially more likely that ill effects will kick off.
Earlier versions of the game did not even have Identify! It’s completely absent from the core OD&D set and from the Holmes basic rulebook. The Rules Cyclopedia (and thus the BX/BECMI line) offers the very similar Analyze, which gives the same basic odds on the roll as 1st Edition with far fewer restrictions but with the handling requirements still intact.
In short, in TSR-era Dungeons & Dragons quickly working out what magic items do requires you to either be a quite accomplished wizard or have one to hand – otherwise, you have to rely on trial and error. Conversely, whilst Identify still takes ages to cast in 3.0, it does at least give you the details guaranteed with no mucking about. Looked at another way, TSR-era Dungeons & Dragons is much more inclined, especially at early levels, to push you into saying “fuck it, I’ll put on the ring/drink the potion” and seeing what happens. Some may not find this fun because of the potentially unexpected and chaotic consequences of doing this. Some of us, though, play tabletop RPGs precisely because we’re after the unexpected and chaotic consequences.