Interval lactate circuits have definitely been around for a long time. But Tabata worked with olympic cyclists. His study was done on anything BUT the average person and he did it to test improvements in their anaerobic performance. His study used 170% of VO2 max as the training parameter for the work periods. Simply put, that is inhuman and far beyond what any normal person is capable of. His study was eventually adapted into "as fast as you can go" for normal people.
But yeah, the old becomes new again. If not in specifics, then at least in spirit.