14 old professions that no longer exist

John Henrique Nov 18, 2020

Since the First Industrial Revolution, many professions have become obsolete, mere memories on the pages of history books.

This is a natural consequence of technological and scientific progress. Professions that can be automated are continually replaced by more complex ones.

1. Switchboard operators

The telephone was invented by Alexander Graham Bell in 1876. But at that time, one person could not call the other person directly.

Between the two people, there was the operator, who was responsible for receiving and directing the call.

Companies preferred to hire women to fill the position because they believed that customers would be more friendly to them.

2. Bowling pin boy

Before the invention and introduction of machines called pinsetters, which retrieve and organize pins automatically, people stayed at the end of the alley to do the job manually. Of course, a job like that should be quite repetitive and boring.

With the advancement of technology, in the first half of the 20th-century pin boys began to be replaced by machines.

3. Lamplighter

In 1879, the first incandescent lamps were created. At that time, the streets of the main cities in the world still used gas or oil lamps.

And since these lamps needed to be lit in the late afternoon and extinguished in the early morning, the lamplighter profession was essential.

4. Telegraph operator

Invented in 1835 by Samuel Morse, the electrical telegraph allowed the transmission of signals through cables. Years later, the wireless telegraph, the precursor of the radio, was invented.

This important long-distance communication device lost its importance throughout the 20th century, giving way to more efficient means, such as the telephone.

With the end of telegraph systems, the telegraphist’s profession has also become extinct.

5. Radio actor/actress

In the so-called “Golden Age of Radio”, radio soap operas were very popular. Actors and actresses played characters using only their voice.

These shows had a crowd of enthusiasts and were very successful.

With the invention of TV and its popularization, in the middle of the 20th century, the radio lost much of its importance in families’ homes, and radio soap operas ended up losing people’s interest.

6. Knocker-up

Nobody likes alarm clocks. But in the past, it was even worse. Much worse!

In some European countries, people were hired to knock on people’s windows with long sticks or throw peas with a straw (like the one in the image above).

These professionals, known as “knocker ups”, were very useful at the time of the Industrial Revolution. But with the invention of the alarm clock in 1876, the knocker ups lost their function.

Today, with smartphones, alarm clocks themselves are at risk of being retired.

7. Aircraft listener

Due to its shape, this contraption you see in the image was known as a “war tuba”.

It was used by the Allies during World War I to detect approaching enemy aircraft through sound.

With the introduction of the radar in World War II, these devices became useless.

8. Ice cutter

Ice cutter
Ice cutters.

Have you ever thought about how people kept food cold before the invention of the refrigerator?

In cold countries, there was the ice cutter profession. This person was in charge of removing large blocks of ice from frozen lakes and rivers during the winter and moving them to cities.

But with the invention of the refrigerator, in the mid-19th century, it became possible to make ice at any time of the year, anywhere in the world.

9. Milkman

In the past, you could start the day with fresh milk waiting for you right at the door. With the popularization of the refrigerator, this profession started to decline.

But it has not disappeared completely. In some cities around the world, the milkman profession still exists, including in the United States.

10. Line casting

The Linotype machine is a text composition machine invented in the 19th century that replaced the manual composition of traditional typography.

This invention revolutionized the printing industry, like magazines and newspapers. It was a faster and more practical printing method.

Through the line casting technique, entire lines were placed for printing, instead of individual letters (typesetting).

Even with the advent of computers and printers, linotype machine operators are still around.

11. Lectors

In the past, people were hired to entertain workers during the working day. They were called lectors.

Their job was to read the daily news or stories while workers performed their dull and repetitive tasks.

12. Town crier

The town crier was a person in charge of making public announcements, such as decrees, court orders, and statutes.

That was how people learned about the king’s decisions in 17th century Europe.

With the advent of the press, the town crier profession became obsolete, since people could obtain this information through the newspaper.

The town crier profession has become part of folklore, and in England, there are even competitions.

13. Daguerreotypist

Invented in the first half of the 19th century, the daguerreotype, an instrument capable of printing an image on copper foil, is the precursor of the camera.

But as the process was expensive, only the wealthiest could hire the services of the daguerreotypist.

Amazingly, the daguerreotype has recently returned. Of course, not with the function of making portraits, since nowadays any smartphone is capable of doing so.

Plastic artists have incorporated this pioneering photographic technique into their artistic works.

14. Leech collector

The above 13 professions have become obsolete thanks to technological progress, but the leech collector profession has become extinct due to advances in the medical sciences.

Until the end of the 19th century, the medical treatment modality known as bloodletting treatment was still used in several countries.

And this could be done with the help of leeches, which were sold to doctors by collectors.

Today, therapeutic bloodletting treatment is still used in specific cases, such as in patients with hemochromatosis, polycythemia vera, and polyglobulia (caused by the excess of red blood cells).

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Written by John Henrique

John has a degree in IT and is the founder of Hyperaxion. He is a science enthusiast and can usually be found reading a book, stargazing, or playing video games.


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