Jobs you had that are obsolete

Inspired by this thread, Technology that died in your generation - Miscellaneous and Personal Stuff I Must Share - Straight Dope Message Board, it occurs to me that I have had more than one just that no longer exists in America.

In college, I made a few bucks typing term papers on my electric typewriter. No need for that skill now.

I worked one summer for a professor pouring over those green & white computer printouts and summarizing the data. I had to look at each entry and compile into categories. Could be done automatically now.

Anyone else?

I hand painted custom maps for a while.

Digitizing Seismic Records. Now most of them already are digitized.

In the 70s, I set type at a printing company using three methods that are not quite gone, but nearly so: handset type, Linotype, and Ludlow.

The trays from which handset (also called foundry) type is selected is called a California jobcase. Someone with that user name posted in the other obsolete thread.

I worked for my school district as a PC tech for a couple years in high school (summer 2000-2001) - one of the stranger parts of the job manually assigning IP addresses throughout an entire school building. No DHCP - we had strict rules for how we were to assign IP addresses to every computer in a given room, then the next room, and so on. I don’t know if DHCP was simply less ubiquitous back then, or if our IT director was just less than clueful - but I can’t imagine anyone doing it that way today.

My summer job through college from 1969 to 1971 was as an elevator operator and doorman on Park Avenue in New York City. In this building, the elevators were still manual - I had to use a hand switch to make the car go up and down, and make adjustments so the car was even with the floor. I also operated the elevator door and safety gate manually. I imagine there may be a few antique elevators still around that operate like this, but there can’t be many.

I was an elevator operator in a few other buildings after that, but the elevators were automatic. The job just consisted of asking the tenant what floor they wanted and then pushing the button.

Key puncher.

For entering data on punched cards.

I worked as a computer graphics specialist – creating slides on a computer (bullet points, etc.) and then shooting them on a camera and developing them so they could be projected via a Kodak Carousel.

Then PowerPoint came along. And computer projectors.

Nowadays you can feed directly from the printer to a running kitchen sink. No need to have a person to manually pour over your data.

I worked for one month last summer doing database development on a virtually extinct platform called Panorama.

I’m not a Panorama developer; they hired me because there’s virtually no such thing as a Panorama developer to be had any more. I didn’t bother adding the skill set to my resume.

I made change in a casino. I was one of those folks with a wheeled cart that circulated around the slot machine area, and changed big bills into smaller bills (and vice versa), changed bills into coins, and so on. I never intended to make a career of it, but it was a fun summer job.

Now, there is no need for such people. Change machines can break large bills into smaller ones, and slot machines no longer use coins–they take bills, and spit out vouchers that can be changed in to cash at (you knew this was coming) change machines. There is still a cashier, and staff who do hand payouts if warranted; but the slot machine area of a casino can be staffed by far fewer people than it once needed to be. At any rate, my old summer job is obsolete.

I was a mailman.
Not obsolete but slowly going there.

I spent a lot of time as a DEC PDP and VAX system programmer and administrator early in my career.

I used to manage a video (VHS) rental store. That may not be quite obsolete yet but its days are numbered for sure.

Other than that I may still be indispensible!

For a while in high school, I was a gas station attendant, which even then was an anachronism.

After moving to North Carolina in 1993, I worked at a bank for a while, and early on I worked in a special room where 3 of us took numbers given to us by account specialists from the mainframe and entered them into the PC-based spreadsheets which our clients actually saw as statements. Unbelievably inefficient hangover from the days when buying $2000 computers for every account specialist was a ludicrous expense not worth doing. By the time I left in 1998, the “PC Room” was a relic of history.

When I was a kid, I worked for a gas station convencience store. One of my jobs was to sort the returnable soda pop bottles so that the respective drink companies could pick up their bottles.


I used to be a “computer operator,” which back in the day meant that I placed magnetic tapes on tape drives when the computer console said so.

Also, I operated the printer. Back in the day, pretty much every document printed had its own special form, and a carriage control tape for each form that told the printer information about the form (how long it was, where to skip to when needed, etc.). The correct form had to be loaded with the correct tape. Now, there are very few forms used, and the with rare exceptions the graphics are printed real-time.

Y2K analysis, renovation, and testing.

The very first paying job I ever held was weekend records clerk in the Texas Department of Public Safety Driver Records division. This was prior to automation, and they had a MASSIVE room filled with paper records on every licensed driver in the state. I’d get a copy of a fax or a radio request with usually the name/race/sex/date of birth. I would then translate the last name into the correct Soundex code, then go root through the paper files in that Soundex classification until I found the record, which I would then pull and replace with a “checked-out” card. I’d then summarize the violations, write them on the fax or hard-copy and shoot the return back down the pneumatic tube to dispatch.

Goal was tube-to-tube in four minutes or less. I got pretty good at it after a while.

Back in the early 50s I worked as a soda jerk in a drug store. Within a few years, all drugstores pulled out their soda fountains and that job disappeared.

Later I programmed an electronic analog computer (by running coax cables from the output of one component to the input of another). I don’t imagine that this kind of analog computer exists any more. It was built entirely from vacuum tubes that had to be continually replaced. Every subsequent job involved lecturing in math and that is still done.