Like all roguelikes, if you died you had to start over again and create a completely new character to play with. Already being familiar with regular table top role playing games, rolling new stats and trying out new race and class combinations was a major part of the fun.
In early 1996, using a blazingly fast 28.8 baud modem I managed to download ADOM 8.1 and install it on my first non Macintosh pc, a Pentium 75Mhz. At first I found the game really hard, and all new characters died after just a few minutes, but I kept trying. After some newsgroup searching I found help in rec.games.roguelike.misc, and later rec.games.roguelike.adom. And I've been playing ADOM ever since. It's a very very difficult game to "win", but just trying to is fun enough. Not much has happened to ADOM since version 1.1.1 in 2002, and by that time the development of all the other rougelikes I knew had gone into maintenance mode or ceased completely.
One reason might be that graphical games were making it impossible to compete. One of my favourites, Dungeon Hack, was early and most roguelike of them all. The much more popular Diablo came later and was not turn based, even if the game mechanics was kind of the same. Of course people tried making graphical front ends to the classic roguelikes with varying success. Falcon's Eye was probably the most known. A fork of that project called Vulture's is still under development and it's a game I have yet to try. (The demo video looks good though!)
To get back to the title of this post; It feel there is a huge revival going on in the roguelike scene. There's new blogs, columns, news pages and games showing up everywhere and older newsgroups and pages like RogueBasin seem to have a surge in activity and popularity. Even the ADOM homepage has gotten a face lift with a new blog about Thomas Biskups new roguelike JADE, and a brand new forum.
I guess that the main reason people enjoy making roguelikes is that the games are full of tricky algorithms like dungeon generation, field of vision, monster AI and more, but still small enough for a single developer to make by themselves. The main reason is of course that there's no graphics and no sound (well, DoomRL has sound), so all the programming effort and processing power can be spent on actual game play instead of bells and whistles. If you know what to do, creating a new game from scratch can be pretty quick. 7 Day Roguelike competitions seems to be more and more popular.
Some are more ambitious than others. The crazy guys behind Dwarf Fortress have quit their jobs to work full time on their ASCII dwarf game simulator. It's not really a classic roguelike, but the features are impressive. Julian Mensch has been working on his Incursion since 1999 and the planned release is in 2011!
All in all, it's a genre of games worth trying, and I guess it's a nice way to learn a new language trying to implement a 7DRL in it. (My attempt in J2ME was never completed though. Take a look at Dweller instead.)
Also, I wonder what's the best way to control a roguelike when you only have a touchscreen. Would be nice to have one for the OpenMoko phone.