Experts predict that one-third of jobs will be automated within the next decade, but this overtaking by technology is not only a modern-day problem. Here is a list of five jobs that have been made redundant by technology throughout history.
For a few pence a week, the knocker-upper would walk the streets of a town at dawn to wake sleeping people, so they could get to work on time. In order to do this, the knocker-upper would often use a short stick to knock on a clients’ door or a long stick to reach bedroom windows that were located on higher floors. The knocker-upper would wait at the client’s window until they received confirmation that the client was awake. In large industrial towns, such as Manchester, a large number of knocker-uppers were required. The job didn’t become fully redundant until the 1950s, when alarm clocks became reliable enough and were affordable to anyone.
The lamplighter used to be employed by a town to light its street lights. Lights were lit each evening, using a long pole. At dawn, the lamplighter would return to put the lights out again, using a small hook on the same pole. Early street lights mostly used oil, candles or a similar consumable liquid. But in the 19th century, gas lights became the most frequent form of street lighting. Early gas lights still required the lamplighter’s services, but when systems were developed to let the lights operate automatically, they became redundant.
In the early days of telephony, companies used manual telephone switchboards. Up to the 1960s, a switchboard operator would be employed to connect calls by inserting a pair pf phone plugs into the appropriate jacks. When computerized telephone dialling systems were developed, there was a quick fall in demand for live operators.
The elevator operator was employed to operate a manually operated elevator. Manual elevators used to be controlled by a large lever, requiring specific skills to stop at the correct height. Many department stores extended the roles of operators. During their shift, they would announce departments floor-by-floor and even mention sales and special offers. After user-operated elevators came into existence, allowing anyone to simply push a button to reach the desired floor, few elevator operators remained.
A town crier, also known as a bellman, was employed to make public pronouncements as required by the court. The town crier, once important to read out messages affecting the residents of a town, became redundant when more people became literate. Although the arrival of the internet, mobile phones and social media mean that there is definitely no need for town criers to spread important news in modern times, some town criers are still appointed in small villages. However, these days, they carry out mostly ceremonial duties.
If you are worried that your job might be taken over by a robot soon, it helps to remember that over the course of history, technology has created more jobs than it has eliminated. But if you want to start preparing for the future now, why not download the Zoek app to let your new job find you? The app for faster, smarter recruitment can be downloaded on iOS or Android.
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