As a kid, I remember watching cartoons originally released in the 1940s and 1950s happily showing off the "house of the future" or the "car of the future." Some of these things were remarkably accurate: smart kitchens with fast cooking food. Some we're still waiting for -- I'm looking at you, flying car!
But, one thing was certain in these future fantasy predictions, life was going to get substantially easier. We'd have so much leisure time, we wouldn't know what to do with ourselves. Of course, the cartoons didn't mention that the lazy afternoons technology would provide us came at the expense of our means of earning a living, but I'm just picking nits.
In fact, technology has done great good for many people and will continue to improve lives in many ways. However, it has erased or is in the process of erasing quite a few jobs, some for the better and others perhaps not so much. Here are ten of them.
10. Postal Worker
Slowly but surely, "snail" mail is being replaced by the electronic version we call email. As a result, the postal service is shrinking and postage is increasing in cost. Until someone invents a teleportation device -- some nerd at Amazon is probably working on it as we speak -- we'll still need people to deliver packages. But, the future does not bode well for letter carriers. You realize these guys used to deliver the mail on horseback, right? The good news: fewer rage-related post office shootings.
9. Assembly Line Worker
The heart and soul of the American workforce for many decades was the blue collar laborer and huge numbers of them worked in factories on assembly lines doing everything from making sure cars were put together correctly to putting caps on bottles of Shotz beer (thanks, Laverne and Shirley!). Computer-driven robots and automated assembly lines now do much of the work leaving factory workers to find other lines of work.
8. Bank Teller
Like the postal worker, this is a job that is dying the death from a thousand paper cuts. With online banking, sophisticated ATMs and smart phones that can accept check deposits, it's no wonder people at banks can continue to keep those ridiculously short hours. Who needs to work ten hours a day when you have those bill and change counting machines to do the jobs people used to do. Have you ever watched a bill counter? It's mesmerizing.
7. Encyclopedia Salesmen
This poor bastard. If you are under the age of 25, you might not even know what an encyclopedia is and you might think Britannica is a country where people speak English but with a funny accent. The only thing the encyclopedia has left behind is the suffix at the end of Wikipedia.
6. Telephone Book Company Employees
When I was in college, I took on the job one summer of delivering phone books. A couple buddies and I delivered a crap ton of books, dodged angry dogs and generally sweated our asses off for a grand total of 17 bucks each. I say good riddance!
5. Video and Music Store Clerks
I re-watched High Fidelity the other night and besides Jack Black's humorous moments, the loss of these guys (and gals) is probably a good thing. When you get down to it, clerks of all kinds are falling by the wayside, particularly at grocery stores with self checkout. But for people working at video and record stores (yes, there are still a few out there), it must be a labor of love because it ain't for the money.
Spy gadgets are freaking cool, but they are most cool when used by tux-wearing spies as they kick terrorist ass and bed hot, exotic women. Sadly, the spy game is becoming run more by nerds on computers than ass-kicking g-men. The dry martini (shaken, not stirred) might ultimately get replaced by orange soda and Cheetos. That's just sad.
3. Telephone Operators
Have you dialed 411 lately? Most phones have an automated voice that listens to your request and gives you the information you want. It's creepy, but also awesome. If anyone was worried about outsourcing replacing menial phone jobs, you can rest easy because these jobs are being filled by robots. Success!
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It used to be that a person who could type quickly was a rarity. Everyone employed a secretary with a high volume word count on the typewriter, word processor and, ultimately, computer. But, now, with computers a part of most people's everyday lives, everyone knows how to do it. I was lucky. My typing teacher's name in high school was Mrs. Stressman. What she lacked in friendliness, she made up for in ball busting and my typing has been speedy ever since. Someday, voice recognition -- like on Star Trek (you knew I'd go there) -- will replace typing and that will be that for the vaunted typist, not to mention the qwerty keyboard!
1. Anyone Involved with Paper
I'm not talking about newspapers here. For all the gloom and doom about the loss of news media, it's not being lost so much as it is simply changing formats. But if you sell paper or copy machines or printers, you might consider working on your resume. It will be a while before all of those jobs are obsolete, but paperless technology is growing rapidly. Pretty soon, Dunder Mifflin will be out of business and not just because The Office sucks so bad without Steve Carell.