The modern age has a way of turning jobs obsolete in a hurry. At the San Francisco Chronicle, Katie Dowd picks out some of the more unusual casualties through history. A sampling:
- Newspaper readers: The title is no joke. Decades ago, factories sometimes employed official readers to stand on a platform and read to workers.
- Low-tech alarms: Long before the days of smartphones, people who had to be up in the morning paid "knocker-up" men and women to tap on their windows, using long poles if necessary. (The source link has a photo of one such expert in action in London.)
- Bowling-pin setters: Yes, actual humans had to reset pins between shots before automation took over.
- Switchboard operators: Back in the day, cities and towns employed long rows of these operators to manually connect every phone call.
- Leech collectors: This was actually a booming business in the mid-19th century, when doctors needed the slimy creatures for their state-of-the-art bloodletting.
- Ice cutters: Because refrigeration wasn't always as easy as it is today.
- Gandy dancers: These awesomely named workers laid railroad tracks during the heyday of the industry's expansion, generally singing all the while.
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