20 Obsolete Jobs That Are Hard to Believe Existed

These obsolete jobs will leave you amazed that they ever existed, showcasing the unique and sometimes bizarre tasks people once performed.

1. Video Store Clerk

“I worked at Blockbuster shifting from VHS to DVD as well; still my favorite job I had when I was younger.”

2. Miss Cleo

“Transcribed 1-800 calls to Ms Cleo, the psychic lady from commercials late at night on tv. Ms. Cleo’s magic crystal gift was labeled and packaged by me. Labels were made by us listening to the calls and filling in name, address, etc. manually. Then once the labels were created, we were in mail room packaging and mailing those f—ng crystals out.”

3. Typists

“Typist. And shorthand Secretary. Imagine a world where every office worker didn’t have a computer on their desk. The boss needs to send out a memo to all staff. They dictate it to secretary who writes it down in shorthand. The secretary then writes it out with pen and paper. Then a typist types that up as a draft Then the boss marks their corrections on the draft Then a typist types out the final memo. But there is no easy way to make 1000 copies to send out. So one option is: More typists type 100 copies of the memo, each with a distribution list of 10 staff. Each memo copy is sent via internal mail to the first person on the distribution list. When you get such a memo you read it, cross your name off, and put it back in internal mail to the next person on the list. If it’s really important the last name on each distribution list is “central filing”, where every copy is collected and stored as proof of who received and read the memo.”

4. Arcade Attendant

While arcade attendants are technically still around, their roles have become more elusive as more old-school arcades closed shop.

5. Knocker Upper

“My grandfather told me that they used to have ‘knocker uppers’. Basically you’d pay a guy who had a big long stick to bash it against your upstairs bedroom window in the morning to make sure you woke up to get to work. Alarm clocks didn’t exist back then. So people would go round knocking everyone up. Obviously that phrase has changed its meaning over time! What I never understood was.. Who knocked up the knocker uppers?”

6. Switchboard Operator

“Switchboard Operator is the first one that comes to mind.”

7. Elevator Operator

Elevator operators, basically elevator companies got tired of their strikes and found a way to automate elevators with technology.

8. Lamp Lighters

“You know how modern streets have electric light poles? Before electric lights some cities still had light poles, but they were oil lamps. Lamplighters would to go through the city and maintain those oil lamps. I’m sure there might still be a FEW around. But for the most part the job is obsolete due to electricity.”

9. Lector to Cigar Workers

“My favorite obsolete job is ‘story reader to cigar rollers.’ Basically hand rolling cigars was highly compensated high skilled work, so the workshop owners would higher people to read the news and books to the cigar rollers while they worked.”

10. Night Soil Men

“Not exactly obsolete, but ‘night soil man’ is one that comes to mind. Before modern sewage and pluming systems but after mass urbanization began, there were men whose jobs it was to take any and all human waste out of the city. They worked at night and cleaned out what we’re called privy vaults. Kind of the precursor to the modern septic tank, privy vaults were basically big brink lined pits with rails around its edges at the top where people could sit when using the bathroom.”

11. Ice Cutters

“Ice cutters. The guy who would go out to a frozen lake cut ice for the ice house and then the ice got delivered to the your icebox.”

12. Toll Booth Collector

With the vast majority of tollways switching to digital collection, the job of wrangling the coins from the drop off bucket has largely become obsolete.

13. Railroad Watchmen

“The busier railroad crossings used to have watchmen that warned about oncoming trains. Some had manual gates.”

14. Aircraft Listener

“A listener and spotter(usually military/airforce)…someone who’s job was to listen for approaching aircraft using sound location devices and use judgment to pin point direction who then relayed the information to a spotter who use high powered lights and binoculars or short range telescopes to gain visual.”

15. Travel Agents

“Travel agents are nearly extinct because people make their own reservations online.”

16. Luggage Porter

“Used to carry people’s bags in airports and train stations. Now everyone has luggage with wheels.”

17. Phrenologist

“Phrenology is a pseudo-science, where adherents think that measuring the bumps on peoples skulls can predict things about their mental traits.”

18. Pinsetter

“Before bowling alleys had automated pin set-up and retrieval machines, pinsetters removed and replaced pins between each turn. These individuals waited at the end of the lanes and reset the pins manually.”

19. Clock Keeper

“In the middle ages, people hired clock keepers to track time and maintain clocks and timekeeping devices. Clock keepers often received significant amounts of money to ensure the accuracy of a clock, as the job involved some basic skills in mathematics before these skills were common.”

20. VHS Repairman

“[VCR] repairmen visited customers’ homes to inspect and fix malfunctioning VHS players. They also repaired machines customers brought into their shops. As VHS tapes became less common, this position disappeared. Today’s equivalent might be a handyperson or a television repair person.”

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