My day job--audience development for a digital media company--didn't exist just a few years ago. At the same time, many things our grandparents and great-grandparents did for work don't exist anymore.
The folks at genealogy and DNA-testing company MyHeritage recently wrote to tell me they've compiled a list of jobs that used to be commonplace but have since completely disappeared. I started with their list and added to it to create what's below.
Here are 17 jobs nobody (or almost nobody) has anymore.
1. Elevator operator
We'll start with this one, because my mom did this job in a department store when she was a teenager in Montreal, where the other workers nicknamed the elevator operators "yo-yos." I think she lasted one day.
How did people know when to wake up--before alarm clocks but after everyone lived within earshot of a rooster? They paid someone to knock on their door or window in the morning.
3. Video store owner
The last remaining Blockbuster video store in the world has a Twitter feed. It's hilarious, and occasionally NSFW, so that's on you. But there aren't many people still trying to make a living in this field.
4. Breaker boy
"A breaker boy was a coal-mining worker in the United States or the United Kingdom," according to MyHeritage. "He separated impurities from the coal by hand."
5. Factory lector
Lectors read aloud to the workers who were actually manufacturing things in factories. They're obsolete now of course because we have radios, the internet, headphones--and, come to think of it, a lot fewer factory workers.
This worker cut large blocks of ice from frozen rivers and lakes during the winter and ultimately delivered them to customers. Obviously this was all before electric refrigeration.
Have you seen the movie Hidden Figures? Do so. Computers were workers, mostly women, who spent their days performing mathematical calculations--and then checking them. They were replaced by, well, computers.
8. Gandy dancer
"A gandy dancer was an early railroad worker whose job was to lay and maintain railroad tracks," MyHeritage reports. "In England, they were called 'navvys.' Their nickname comes from the methodical dance movements of the railroad workers."
9. Gas station attendant
I'm aware there are a few places where this job still exists. I even live in one of the two states where gas station attendants are legally required. So they're not quite 100 percent gone. Enjoy them while you can still occasionally find them.
10. Switchboard operator
Connecting phone calls once literally required people--mostly women did it--who manually moved phone cords into outlets. Author trivia: My grandmother did this job, working the switchboard for radio station CJAD in Montreal 50 years ago.
11. Pullman porter
Before the days of transcontinental flight, when you'd take an overnight train from, say, New York City to Chicago, pullman porters were attendants who would wait on rail passengers and set up their berths so they could sleep at night.
Most porters were African American. It was hard work, and the porters endured hardships, but it was also one of the few jobs reliably open to black Americans in the Jim Crow era that offered a step up into the middle class.
12. Print journalist
Years ago, before the advent of the internet, many journalists wrote exclusively for media entities that would print their stories on actual paper. These "newspapers" and "magazines" then had to be physically distributed to readers.
13. Book peddler
MyHeritage: "Book peddlers were traveling vendors. Also known as 'book canvassers,' they went door-to-door selling books. For many rural Americans, this was their only way to obtain new reading material."
When streetlights were powered by oil, someone had to go out and light them at night.
15. Bobbin boy
"Bobbin boys worked in textile mills in the 18th and early 19th centuries," according to MyHeritage. "Their job consisted in bringing bobbins to the women at the looms, and then collecting the bobbins that were full with spun cotton or wool thread."
16. Hemp dresser
Again from MyHeritage: "Hemp dressers worked in the linen industry separating the coarse part of flax or hemp with a hackle. They were also known as 'hacklers.'"
17. Scissors grinder
These folks went door-to-door, offering to sharpen scissors and knives. Now, well, I guess a lot of us just buy new ones.