As computers and automated systems increasingly take the jobs humans once held, entire professions are now extinct. Here are a few examples of endangered professions, from milkman to telegrapher — now oft-forgotten jobs.
Typist in a Typist Pool
Before word processors and computers made typing a relatively simple task, many office buildings had a typist pool – a group of usually young women who would type correspondence and documents.
When manual printing presses were the norm in newspaper offices and publishing houses, typesetters placed individual pieces of lead type into wooden frames to create the layout of each page.
In the days of telegraphs and typewriters, newspaper offices ran on paper – and the “copy boys,” or errand runners, who shuttled that paper from desk to desk.
Cigar makers in Florida and New York City would sometimes pool their wages to pay a “lector” to read newspapers or political tracts aloud to them while they worked.
When elevators were manual, operators “drove” the lift, choosing which floors to stop at, in which order, and attempting to land the elevator cab at exactly the right spot to be level with the floor.
(Editor’s note: This position isn’t totally obsolete. I just went to Carlsbad Caverns, NM and there is an elevator operator for a quick entrance / exit for the main cave.)
Before bowling alleys were fully automated, pins that were knocked over would stay that way until a person (“pingirls” and “pinboys”) came to set them back up.
After trees were chopped down by loggers, river drivers (sometimes also known as “river pigs”) would float the logs downriver to sawmills.
Before electric refrigerators became pervasive in the 1940s, iceboxes needed to be regularly stocked with ice to keep food cold.
Lamplighters in New York City at the turn of the century were responsible for lighting 200-300 streetlights an hour.
In a 1963 Department of Agriculture survey, almost 30 percent of consumers had milk delivered.
Operators used a “cord board” to connect callers, plugging the incoming line and metal peg into the corresponding hole on the board to connect with the correct phone line.
Telegraph operators sent jolts of electricity through wires to transmit messages across the country and the world.
Read more on each occupation at http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=124251060&sc=nl&cc=nh-20100305