As some have said, I star hopped because what choice was there? I still starhop due to budgetary constraints, it's either that or nothing. Sure, the 'scope had discs with RA and Dec on the EQ mount but I don't think I realised their purpose for ages. I wish I had a push-to now as urban light pollution is evil, LED street lighting which was long deemed as going to be a benefit to dark skies as well as 'green' makes the days of low pressure orange glow seem glorious, as even though the white cone is targetted downwards it sure reflects off asphalt well, especially if damp from dew or frost, or after what used to be a very useful air cleaning rain after a weather front went through. The some means sky background is always white now. I can't remember the last time I actually saw a hint of airglow after a long session.
For starhop I mean charts and all by hand and finderscope (another argument is the red dot vs finderscope for starhopping, I decry the former...). Push-to I thought meant some sort of hand held thing where you starhopped manually but the handheld thing told you were you were and when on target, rather than the skycharts and star pattern recognition. GOTO does it all, some I believe don't need much reference star alignment even on an altaz dob nowadays.
So GOTO would save a lot of angst and stress and back and neck ache sometimes, but then again last time I tried to look at a 10th mag galaxy that used to be easy I could barely make it out against the LED sourced white skyglow, so what is there to push-to?
And a drive would be great for fighting for every photon of a faint fuzzy or splitting a 'scope limit tight pair of stars at high power without having to keep trying to shift the 'scope without losing the object. Allegedly the eyeball rods take about six seconds to integrate signals.
Swings and roundabouts, as they say.
One thing is important nowadays though, probably especially for beginners. And those of us whose pockets are not well lined or lucky enough to live near dark sites. On a tight budget do you spend the money on up to a couple of inches more aperture or maybe instead a more robust GEM, or on a smaller full working goto with an okay altaz? My old monster (in bulk, not size, only just over 8 inch), was fairly old when I got it second hand, has worn teeth on it and serious inertia due to weight so the slowmo is pointless. It would have to be binned and a brand new entire 'scope and mount obtained to replace it, let alone any addons. Not cheap. On the other hand, if a beginner buys a 'scope and urban skies make learning to starhop really difficult, and the result is for not insignificant amounts of money wasted on a thing collecting dust in a garage, loft or cupboard, and another amateur astronomer lost for life, that's not good either. On the other, other hand, if budget leads to a good goto but means you only get down to mag 12.5 ish instead of mag around 14 due to just a couple of inches, what's the point of having a goto for that depth of mag? That couple of mags can make all the difference between DSO and not DSO, and also due to the extra aperture better luck with planets and doubles. Quandary.
Sure people can graduate to bigger if they get hooked, but it might involve a long time of saving up, and cost of kit is NOT linear with size increase, it tends to be a bit quantal, bigger stuff needs more robust engineering and materials to be worthwhile you see. And eyepieces can be upgraded bit by bit over time at reasonable cost (although of course some eyepieces cost more than some telescopes nowadays!). Maybe even a push-to added later, depending on the mount?
But, before I got myself sidetracked, I wanted to add a rider question to all this.
How many goto folk actually look at more than the handheld unit or laptop/desktop and the eyepiece?
I find starhopping means I look at the sky, see things naked eye I wouldn't notice otherwise, catch the odd sporadic meteor, notice the constellations, including the obscure ones, notice nice little aesthetic patches of sky either in the finderscope or at low powers whilst panning to the exact spot. Stand still and stare at the sky for a while, especially over 60 degrees up) until you feel the rotation of the planet, so to speak (illusion? Never sure. Not bloodloss to the brain from bent neck trapping arteries or lack of oxygen to the brain as neck angle restricts the windpipe, that makes things white out if you observe in too awkward a posture for far too long. Sometimes when really trying hard for certain objects in awkward positions when starhopping you don't notice those effects creep up on you).*
How many goto users just look at the sky and notice things in passing. Just looking at the stars, and picking up other things. And sometimes whilst recognising the patterns being reminded "ooh, I haven't looked at that object for a while, let's have a looksee seeing it's a crisp night". Not as likely if you have a rigid to-do list at hand, which I think fits in with GOT ethos.
I enjoy doing that as much as seeing hard and/or rewarding stuff. I've often wondered though whether astronomy has a dichotomy like the birdwatchers who will walk in the countryside and notice some birds, but going for the full countryside feel, and, the twitchers who zoom off to add another tick on the list not much different from licence plate number collecting or train spotting? Because hard does not always mean aesthetically rewarding, and can probably be far more disappointing after a long starhop than after a quick GOTO.
Similarly, deepsky observers are also rarely the same as deepsky imagers, as far as I can tell. There are some glorious amateur images achieved nowadays, but they're still nothing compared to being out there looking direct through a few bits of glass.
Summary : I can't see how goto gives you a feel for the nightsky in general, at all levels, unless possibly you used to starhop and still remember to look for those aspects. For many, and I think keen folk on forums forget this at times, the choice is between aperture and extraneous kit simply due to good old fashioned cost. (And red dot only on beginner 'scopes without goto ought to be banned).
That's my tuppence worth! ; )
*[Or more negatively contemplate on just how many ruddy lumps of metal are orbiting the Earth nowadays (several satellites at a time sometimes!), let alone the number of planes going over the pole to North America being more frequent than buses on the road! Or a police helicopter potentially mistaking me for a guy with a mortar, and then my suddenly realising that if a police helicopter is very nearby, there as potentially some desperate fugitives about, so maybe I ought to nip in and lock the door. It's a rare occurrence, but it certainly breaks up the tranquility of the night.]