I started punting as a kerb-crawler in 1983, first in Stoke then in Liverpool, then all over the place – Manchester, Birmingham, all the red-light zones of London – with lots of pedestrian encounters in and around Kings Cross too.
I seem to recall the ratio of sexy times to shit times was about 70/30, which is probably about the same as now with UK Punting, Adultwork and all the rest of the world wide wonders we have at our disposal. The OP is right in saying that the thrill of driving (or walking) around a seriously dodgy area with the risk of getting your collar felt (happened twice -- just warnings both times) or mugged (once – gave the big bad knife-wielding black guy £20 and sweet-talked him out of taking my bag) was incomparably greater than the engrossing, time-consuming but ultimately dry and solitary process of online research.
I fucked some incredibly horny girls, some incredibly skanky girls, one or two amazing beauties, risked bareback in both holes (pre-Aids panic) with several girls, and got involved in all kinds of mini-dramas with them. I smoked crack in Camden Town with one out-of-it black whore at 4am. Luckily, it did nothing for me. Two teenage junkie hookers even started fighting over me when I went back to one flat near Kings Cross.
I did try parlours and newspaper small ads a few times, but the hit rate was much lower. I much preferred the thrill of the street.
If all of this suddenly became possible again I don't think I'd have the appetite or stamina for it now at the age of 59. But I'm sure as hell glad I did it all way back when!