3033 was, in its day, prized for:
1) As noted here already, price/piece. VERY cheap. About a penny per piece, when most sets were about 10 cents per piece.
2) Nothin' but bricks. No plates, no slopes, no hinges, flags, or windows. All bricks. You could buy them up and have tons of filler material or building material, without being left with bunches of roof bricks or something that you didn't use.
3) Green. At the time, green bricks were still relatively rare. They were speckled in here and there in other sets, but they were still uncommon. And let's not forget-- this was before BrickLink, so if you needed green bricks, you had to buy them in sets. LEGO did have the relatively short-lived 5215 S@H set of green bricks a year later in 1999, but that was about 8 cents apiece compared to 3033's roughly 1 cent apiece price.
4) The tub. The 3033 storage tubs are awesome. All the new tubs have big fat studs on the top, and have raised portions in the bottom making them take up more space without using it. Plus, they bow out to the sides making them look chunky and friendly. The 3033 tubs (which matched other tubs of the day) were FAR better.
Back in the day, people would frequently ask each other how many of the 3033 tubs they bought-- I see 7 people on LUGNET who had 50 or more copies each-- truly monumental amounts.
In the end, it was a get-it-while-you-can item, although people who joined the hobby in 2001 or later (which is now the majority of fans, I'd guess) probably didn't hear much about how great it was, so it didn't stick out in their memories. Plus, it's not like it made a cool model or anything, so it didn't have much to make it stand out. So yeah, it's more like asking if you're an old timer or not. Sort of like asking if you scored anything in the Ames 75% off sale for Star Wars. Nobody now would remember what the heck that was, but it was a big hubbub at the time.