Think about these once-popular jobs made obsolete by technology. Is yours safe?

Jenni Konrad

Look around you.  Reflect on the thousands of ways in which people make a living.  Care to guess which occupations might not be around in a generation, with technological advances rendering them obsolete?  Our grandparents would have been unable to imagine the number and scope of jobs that exist today.  Many of the occupations they would have been familiar with have become obsolete, and some are heading down the valley of no return, thanks to industrialization, modernization, and more recently, globalization.

The scene from the movie The Intern (2015), where Robert De Niro tells Anne Hathaway about how he “was in charge of overseeing the printing of the physical phone book” and the conversation that ensued afterwards would have teared  up at least some of us.  He talks about the decline of the once prosperous business because of technological advancements such as Google.  Here is a list of jobs that have become obsolete or are fast on their way out.

1. Stenographers

A stenographer

Every executive once had a stenographer they dictated notes and letter outlines to.  Today’s smartphone-wielding generation wouldn’t know the pressure stenographers used to be under so that not a single word was missed.

2. File clerks

Nels Highberg

With the onset of the digital documentation era, clerks whose sole purpose was to file documents such as medical records and office reports, are increasingly moving on in search of new job opportunities.

3. Telephone switchboard operators

Telephone switchboard operators

In the early years after the telephone was invented, all calls had to be routed through a switchboard.  A telephone switchboard operator had to manually switch calls with the help of phone plugs and take down phone numbers if the lines were busy.  With the advent of automatic exchange, telephone switchboard operators are no longer needed.

4. Ice-delivery men

Ice delivery company
IMLS Digital Collections & Content

Before the refrigeration technique was invented, ice-delivery men used to go from house to house, delivering ice for iceboxes.

5. Newspaper typesetters

Jenni Konrad

Back in the time when there were no layouts or even computers, for creating newspaper pages, each piece of type had to be placed in the printing presses in the correct order.  This was the job of the newspaper typesetter.  Just imagine spending hours doing this!

6. Elevator operators

Elevators operator

Little do we know about the troubles that elevator operators had to go through once upon a time.  For an elevator cab to properly land on the desired floor, operators were required to manually pull levers.

7. Telegraphists

Bowen Murphy

Many of the people reading this post would have never received a telegram. That opportunity has flown the nest.  India’s last telegram was sent on July 14, 2013.  Along with it died an occupation that was in high demand nearly a century ago.

8. Cycle rickshawalas

Cycle rickshawalas
Jason Rufus

The memory of cycle rickshaws must be still fresh in most of our minds.  Motorized vehicles, especially auto rickshaws have put cycle rickshaws out of business, except in pockets where they may serve as a local sightseeing option for tourists.

9. Matchmakers

An Indian wedding invite
Harsha K. R.

Before the advent of matrimonial websites, matchmakers or wedding brokers served families by bringing marriage proposals for their grown sons and daughters from near and far.  Even today, they do exist in parts of the country. However, their popularity has declined with more and more people choosing to go online and find a match the “modern way”.

10. Bullock-cart handlers

Dhruvaraj S.

These beasts of burden were common sights on dirt roads across the country.  Tarmac roads have replaced dirt roads, and engine-driven vehicles have replaced bullock carts.

Have we missed any other job that has gone obsolete or is on its way out?  If so, drop a comment and let us know.


Editor’s note:

In recent weeks and months, many startups have been showing the door to dozens if not hundreds of their employees.  Here is a list of helpful dos and don’ts to help you bounce back: An Open Letter To Employees Laid Off By Startups Such As Flipkart, Ola, Zomato, Snapdeal, TinyOwl, And FoodPanda.



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