Basically, pre-Reason, which was one of the first soft-synths, most people have to deal with racks like this one:
Copious amounts of patching, high power requirements, and complete immobility. Also a lack of consistency. No two people had the same rack, so you could never be sure what you'd be using when you showed up at another person's rig.
And by "deal with" I mean "dream of", as most people had to deal with racks like one of these: