People born at the end of the Twentieth Century and the dawn of the Twenty-First are not entirely aware of the importance of technology in their lives. Everything is growing rapidly, and advancements in modern technology are changing the world as we know it. Day after day, a new tech “wonder” emerges and replaces some product that we are used to or love in some way. For instance, think about smartphones. Everybody has one, and they don’t seem like anything spectacular to us. Smartphones today are like mini-computers, capable of some incredible things that we take for granted. They actually pushed many great products like GPS devices, pocket cameras and MP3 players out of the global market.
When you think about it, smartphones as we know them today, were just science fiction 15 or 20 years ago. When we look even further in the past, an average smartphone today has about a hundred times more capable CPU than a computer that helped in sending a man to the moon in 1969. People can only guess what will happen in 10 or 20 years from now.
As technology grew and changed, the world and many things became easier and, unfortunately, many things that we loved or cared about became obsolete. This time, we are presenting you a list of 15 jobs that were crucial to society a long time ago, and some that you might not have known existed.
Even the name of this job sounds ridiculous these days, but long ago, this was an important job. Imagine you’re in a time without alarm clocks and mobile phones. A Knocker-upper is (was) a person who made sure that people would wake up in time for their jobs. The name of the post is describing what that particular person did; he used a long stick, pebble or a club of some kind, and knocked on the window of individuals who paid a knocker-upper to wake them in the morning. Wow. I really didn’t believe this job role existed once upon a time.
As you can imagine, this wasn’t a dream job, but it was an honest-paying job nonetheless. Of course, when someone invented the alarm clock this kind of job was retired quickly. Imagine a Knocker-upper today, knocking on your second-floor window in the morning to force you out of your bed. The alarm on your phone sounds like a much better option, right?
14. Ice Cutter
Many people enjoy ice, especially during hot and long summer days. If you want ice, all you need to do is pour the water into some container and put it in the freezer and voila; in a few hours, you will have ice cubes. Of course, it is even easier if you have an ice-making machine. People have always used ice for a lot of things, but it wasn’t always as available as it is today.
A long time ago, before refrigerators, people required ice and the only way to get it was by cutting it out from large blocks of ice. Of course, large blocks of ice were only available from some locations with freezing climates, like Antarctica for instance. Ice Cutters always worked in harsh conditions and human casualties were an ordinary thing. Thanks to the development of modern technology and refrigerators, this awful and deadly job is now a thing of the past.
13. Rat Catcher
Have you ever heard about the Black Death? It was one of the most devastating pandemics in human history, which took about 200 million lives in Europe around the 14th century. The black rats were carriers of the plague (you can certainly see why Europeans don’t like rats that much). Several hundred years after that event, the rat population in Europe was growing again and there was a need for rat exterminators.
Not only that rodents were transmitters of deadly diseases, but they also destroyed food and other goods. Rat catchers did what others were afraid to do; they hunted and killed the rats. Yes, it was a frightening and lousy paying job, where rats would bite you from time to time, but somebody had to do it. Luckily, the rat infestation is not as severe as it once was and there is no need for this occupation anymore.
12. Chimney Sweeper
A largely dead occupation (there are still some chimney sweepers in East European countries) and probably the most regular job on the list; Chimney Sweepers, as their name suggests, were people who climbed on the top of the buildings or houses and cleaned chimneys. Chimney Sweepers used long metal cables with the metal brushes on the end of them to perform their jobs.
As you can assume, the job was pretty dirty, and it didn’t pay much. After long and grueling days climbing on rooftops, Chimney Sweepers usually headed straight to pubs. It was really dangerous working on such heights, especially if they were (and a lot of them were) drunk. There aren’t many chimneys to sweep these days because many buildings are heated with oil or electricity. Even in old buildings and houses, people are not using coal or wood as fuel anymore.
Everybody loves bowling, right?! It is one of the most fun games ever invented, and the objective of the game is to knock out all the pins that are located on the end of your line by sliding the bowling ball at them. Pinsetters were usually young boys who worked for virtually nothing. Their obligation was to set up pins in the appropriate order after somebody knocked them out. It sounds pretty silly when you think about it now, but back then young boys used to compete for the place of pinsetter.
It was an honest job and, although it didn’t pay much they didn’t have to hunt rats or dig up corpses for a living. Of course, after some years people invented the machines for setting pins in order. It was much quicker and cheaper than to pay boys to do it, and just like that, the occupation of the pinsetter ceased to exist. Unfortunately, the invention of various machines didn’t stop multinational corporations to recruit young boys and girls for lousy and miserably paying jobs around the world.
For those of you who always wondered how the streets were lit before the invention of electricity, the answer is pretty simple; it was the work of lamplighters. Lamplighters were the people (usually men) that walked from one street lamp to another and lit it. For this peculiar job, they used long poles or ladders to climb. Of course, in the morning, they had to douse those lamps, as well as refuel them when needed.
Depending on the size of the city or town, there had to be a certain number of lamplighters. It was a good job that required little to no skills, only dexterity for walking several miles each morning and evening. Naturally, when the electricity progressed to a certain level, there was no need for lamplighters anymore and their job was quickly forgotten. Today, lamplighters can be seen only in certain parts of the world as a tourist attraction, and they represent a particular part of human history.
9. Log driver
Another unusual occupation on our list that sounds pretty ridiculous today is a log driver. Log drivers were usually young and strong men whose job was to float logs down the river to treatment plants. As you may assume, this wasn’t an easy task at all. Injuries were pretty common, and there were no hospitals or doctors in a vicinity. From time to time logs got jammed, creating a pile. Some drivers were in charge of breaking up jams with tools or even dynamite before the logs gathered created small dams and stopped the river flow.
This job was prevalent in some parts of Europe, America and Canada, and some places still do log driving once a year as a part of a holiday celebration. With the progress in the motor industry, log driving was quickly abandoned. It was much easier to distribute large logs with trucks or boats than to be driven down the raging river, by a bunch of strong and reckless men.
8. Switchboard Operator
In the early years of telephony (until the 1960s), companies used manual telephone switchboards. Switchboard operators were usually young women with excellent skills in communication, and their job was to connect calls by inserting a pair of phone plugs into suitable jacks. This job was usually given to women because of the behavior of the teenage boys who previously were operators. Young women were very courteous to callers, and it was easier to pay them because women’s labor was much cheaper in comparison to men’s.
Emma Nut was a first woman that was hired for the job by none other than Alexander Graham Bell. She could remember every number in the phonebook of The New England Telephone Company, and that is still an impressive feat. Phone technology eventually advanced, and phone calls can now be placed directly nowadays.
Picture this, you are on top of a mountain with a glorious view, and you suddenly spot a rare bird. No problem, you get your smartphone from your pocket and snap a picture of it. But, during the beginnings of photography, it was not so easy. It took some real skills as well as knowledge to be a daguerreotypist. When Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre invented daguerreotype, it was a prestigious and state-of-the-art thing. It was pretty expensive, and only certain people had been able to enjoy it and have their daguerreotype taken.
The process itself was pretty long and challenging, but the end result was stunning. It doesn’t look like any other photograph. Instead, it appears to be floating in space and looks like something out of this world. As the technology progressed, daguerreotypes became obsolete, expensive and too complicated and were abandoned. The technology progressed a lot since then, and mobile photography is widely available, but daguerreotype is still a sight to be seen.
6. Railroad Worker
Railroad workers (or Gandy Dancers, as they were called in slang) are certainly a thing of the past in the Twenty-First century, but they were important people at the time. Nobody is going to acknowledge that but, without them, trains wouldn’t be the most available form of public transportation in the world today. The job description was pretty standard at the time; the companies were looking for men and offered permanent employment and high wages.
Of course, it was all a hoax, but a lot of people were applying for the job anyhow. The job was pretty difficult both mentally and psychically, so workers had to blow off some steam the only way they knew how – by singing. These songs were used for motivating as well as entertaining purposes, and they would often evoke sexual imagery. Today, this job is largely done by machines and railroads are not built the same way they were before, but gratitude for these men remains the same.
5. Town Crier
Hear ye, hear ye; next on our list of interesting jobs that we’ll never have again is a town crier. Everybody knows who town criers were, but today we can only see them in the movies or some old tourist sites. As you already saw in the movies, a Town Crier was usually an older gentleman with a booming voice. His job was to shout the most important news (or public announcement by the court’s duty) so that all people in the town square could hear him.
Town Criers were always dressed officially and had a little bell which they carried with them always. Today this occupation exists only for entertaining purposes and as a local folklore. Competitions for the best Town Criers are still being held in some parts of the world like Australia, Canada, England and America. The occupation of the Town Crier was quickly replaced by radio, television, texting, internet, and all the marvels of modern technology.
Another occupation on our list that was terminated by the development of modern technology is that of a Milkman. Milkmen were people who delivered fresh milk (and other products) to your house every (or every other) day. Because of the lack of the proper refrigerators, milk had to be delivered fresh, or it would spoil if it stayed out for too long. Milkmen were handsome as well as sophisticated men by some unwritten rule and they were often responsible for many illegitimate kids across the state.
Of course, many of these stories were just jokes, but it shows what kind of reputation Milkmen had. Naturally, with the invention of the modern refrigerators, special bottles and processed milk, there is no need for this occupation anymore. Although, there are a few remaining Milkmen is some areas of the States. Many kids today have never heard of this job, but it seems like the jokes about milkmen (and some similar jobs) will be told forever.
3. Airplane Listener
“What is your job, soldier? I am an airplane listener, Sir!”
Yes, it sounds as ridiculous as it is. Airplane listeners were specially trained soldiers that used acoustic mirrors and other similar devices for detecting enemy planes. That occupation was very helpful at the beginning of World War II, long before the radar was invented. Acoustic mirrors are large concrete structures, specially designed to concentrate sound waves in one spot. Another useful tool for detecting enemy activity were parabolic microphones.
An Airplane listener had quite a responsible job, and had to be on the alert constantly. Often, the biggest and the fastest advancements are made in the military technology. It looks like people are much more concentrated on killing, than on curing all kinds of diseases. Things like different types of radars and computers have retired this kind of job rapidly. Many of the acoustic mirrors can still be seen today on the Dungeness and Kilnsea Grange, England.
2. Elevator Operator
Most likely, you’ve seen this type of job only in Hollywood cinema. Back in the day, it wasn’t as easy to operate a lift as it is today. Elevators were pretty complicated things with the lever and all the machinery, so only a trained personnel knew how to use them. Operators in the elevators wore their neatly ironed uniforms with silly looking hats and elegant white glows. It was a pretty good job, considering many other jobs on our list.
There are still few operators in the world with steady employment. Some of them are located in the USA, in the cities of Minneapolis, Seattle, Buffalo, New York as well as Santa Clarita. Other elevator operators are working in Taiwan, Japan, France and Sweden. As with everything else, technology eliminated the need for this type of job. Elevators today are much simpler to operate, and all they require is the push of a button. Still, there are always people who fail even in this simple task.
1. Newspaper Reader
In a time when even a radio was science fiction, there were Newspaper Readers. The job of these fellows was to read the latest papers out loud to the workers in Cuban cigar factories (or any other plant) in order to cheer them up and encourage them to be more productive. Because of the incredible amount of boredom on the cigar making job, workers were pretty thrilled when the company brought in Newspaper Readers.
A Newspaper Reader was usually a man that had to read astonishingly good and incredibly loud for several hours straight. Not as easy as it seems. Unfortunately for them, technology was progressing daily, the radio was invented, and that led to the loss of their jobs. Many Newspaper Readers transitioned to radio stations and became very popular radio hosts or actors.