The world of work constantly evolves with the march of technology. While this progress brings new opportunities, it also makes some jobs obsolete. Here are 19 roles that were once vital but have faded due to technological advancements.
Before cities buzzed with electric streetlights, lamplighters were the guardians of the night. Their job involved walking through neighborhoods, methodically lighting each gas lamp, ensuring that streets remained navigable and safe during evening hours.
Early mornings used to echo with the clink of milk bottles. Milkmen were the friendly faces ensuring fresh dairy reached doorsteps daily. But with modern refrigeration and supermarket chains, this home delivery system gradually vanished.
In an age before mobile phones, payphones dotted streets. Collectors would retrieve coins from these machines. As cell phones became prevalent, the demand for payphones, and their collectors, dwindled.
During the infancy of telecommunication, switchboard operators connected calls by manually plugging wires into sockets. As automated systems and digital tech emerged, their role became redundant.
Before the era of refrigerators, ice cutters braved frozen lakes, cutting and hauling ice blocks for storage in ice houses. As electrical refrigeration systems became commonplace, their chilly occupation melted away.
In the heyday of home video, if your VCR malfunctioned, these techies came to the rescue. But as DVDs and streaming services surged in popularity, the VCR—and its repairmen—became memories.
In early multi-story buildings, elevator operators managed the manual levers and ensured passengers reached their desired floors. Automated, push-button elevators soon replaced this personal touch.
In classic movie theaters, projectionists skillfully threaded film reels and ensured smooth viewings. Digital cinema, with its ease and clarity, edged out these experts.
The term “computer” was once a job title, not a machine. Human computers were highly skilled individuals, often women, who performed complex mathematical calculations manually. Their accuracy and speed were vital in fields ranging from astronomy to engineering. Their tasks were time-consuming, requiring attention to detail. But as the 20th century progressed, electronic computers started taking over, processing vast amounts of data quickly, rendering the job of human computers obsolete.
While shoe repair is not entirely extinct, it’s less common now. Mass-produced, affordable footwear often leads people to replace rather than repair their worn shoes.
In a world where written communication was penned on typewriters, these repairmen were invaluable. They meticulously fixed jammed keys and replenished ink ribbons. However, the rise of personal computers left these experts in dwindling demand.
These individuals were the messengers of their time, transmitting coded messages across vast distances. But as telephones and the internet became ubiquitous, the need for telegraphy waned.
Planning a trip once meant visiting a travel agent who’d sort out all details. Online booking platforms and travel websites, however, have made it easier for individuals to plan trips independently.
In the days when bowling was gaining popularity, each alley had pinsetters, often young men, waiting at the end of lanes. Their task was to quickly reset the pins in perfect formation and return the bowled balls to players. It was a physically demanding job that required speed and precision.
Before the digital wave in photography, capturing memories meant using film. Once a picture was taken, it had to be developed in a darkroom. Darkroom technicians, under dim red lights, would immerse films in various chemicals, then enlarge and print photos on light-sensitive paper.
There was a time when buying products often involved a salesman knocking on your door, briefcase in hand. These salespeople had a knack for persuasive pitches and could demonstrate the utility of a product right on your doorstep. From vacuum cleaners to encyclopedias, they sold it all.
These industrious individuals roamed streets with carts, calling out for old rags, bones, and other scrap items. They played a crucial role in early recycling, collecting unwanted items from households and selling them to merchants or factories for reuse. Bones, for instance, were used in making buttons or glue. As organized waste management systems and modern recycling methods developed, the rag-and-bone men’s traditional role diminished.
Pony Express Riders
The Pony Express was a short-lived but iconic mail delivery system in the United States. Riders, often young men known for their courage and endurance, would gallop across rough terrains carrying pouches filled with letters and small packages. They faced many dangers, from harsh weather to potential attacks.
While newspapers still exist, the old process of laying out pages by hand has been replaced by digital layouts and automated printing.
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