Considering the points you raise and the seemingly unceasing efforts to improve the automatic since the '70s, is it a surprise most folks don't want to "engage"?
The roll towards automatics goes back to the '50s when they were a welcome alternative to the awkward and poorly ratioed (is that a word?) "3 on the tree" transmissions of the time. Most of those were non-synchro first gear, adding to the hatred on the part of folks like my mom, who got a ticket for rolling a stop sign in 2nd....(My dad's instruction to her btw. The practice led to a similar pinch for him years later)