The Dispatch

Did The Internet Really Kill Off These Jobs?

It’s a tough world out there. A bad economy and a difficult job market make for fewer available positions, and more people fighting over those jobs. With an uncertain future, it can be hard to know where you fit in the job pool.

The best way to approach the employment landscape is with as much information as possible–who knows who will be hiring tomorrow? Here are some of the past-time jobs that have been lost to modern times.

1.) Bicycle Messenger: Shut Up And Take My Money!

In 2007, bike messengers were still hanging on despite being obsolete since 1997 at least due to their sheer novelty. If you need a package delivered somewhere fast, a bike messenger was always your first choice back in the day. This was even more true in large cities where it could take hours to go several blocks but a person on a bike or foot could travel the distance in minutes. 

There even was a famous movie with Kevin Bacon where he is a bike messenger called Quicksilver. I know as a kid watching this made me want to dodge in and out of city traffic!

In 1997, the internet killed off this career for good. The first major change was email as a form of communication. Instead of leaving a message that would be passed on to other messengers at their dispatch company, I could just send it directly to them via their computer. 

They still had to have a phone number and physical address so the average person didn’t know about this new feature yet but all it took was one company moving its communications online and everyone else either followed or died out.

2.) Typists: A Fine Career for a Woman

At one time, typing was considered an art form to be taught to the ladies of the household as they were too busy having tea to master “the typewriter” and their boundless patience made them perfect for this role. Once computers came along, however, it became less important for a business to have documents typed and more essential that said document be created on a computer. This led many women who had enjoyed careers as typists into other fields.

These jobs were once common but technology has rendered these skills obsolete.

3.) Librarians: I’m Not Old Enough To Be A Librarian!

Libraries are still useful today but now instead of lots of books which they offer access to computers and the internet for those underserved segments. Librarians are still around to help people find the information they’re looking for.

4.) Toll Booth Operators: This Is A Little Sad…

Toll booths have become archaic in recent years, replaced by automatic tools or methods of payment. The latter is seen when you drive on certain roads/highways with an EZPass. Your car has a little gadget that is scanned by a machine at the toll booth and voila! You don’t have to stop or pay anything extra, no human interaction is required!

5.) Switchboard Operator: “Operator, Get Me, Dr. Smith.”

These were the girls who handled phone calls before call centers were used for this purpose and this was also before calling became direct with a phone company. Before my time, you needed an operator to connect your phone call. You picked up your phone and said:

“Operator, get me Mr. Smith.” and the operator did just that and connect you to whomever you were calling (unless it was a wrong number). They would also assist in making collect calls. 

People often called operators when their phones broke down since they could fix them to some extent. [Source] You can still see switchboard operators when you enter hotels or offices with receptionists who use similar devices.

6.) Secretary: “I’ll Take This Call.”

Before controlling a computer keyboard became an essential skill in writing, people used typewriters instead of computers to type out what they wrote before printing it in a physical form. Back then, these people commonly held positions of power in an office setting. 

Their role was equivalent to that of a secretary; they acted as assistants to managers in small business/office environments. Nowadays, computers and the internet have made it impossible for people who can’t type or use a computer to get these kinds of jobs.

7.) Call Centre Operator: “How May I Help You?”

Call centers are everywhere in developed countries; they’re businesses dedicated to receiving phone calls from clients to provide services. To work at one, you need strong communication skills since you’re expected to handle difficult clients on the other end of the line who are angry about their malfunctioning products or poor service. 

These are based internationally so many of them hire people with different nationalities although American accents are commonly preferred by customers, it is proof positive that we are now a global society and workforce.

As technology advances, regional call centers become more and more obsolete. Customers can do their own research online or contact companies via social media instead of calling them on the phone. It gets to a point where one person doesn’t need to answer hundreds of calls every day; telephone conversations are slowly phased out instead of email exchanges or written messages through social media platforms, self-service webchats, and text messages.

It’s not like this everywhere but our advanced smartphones allow us to scan QR codes rather than input long strings of non-numeric characters by hand; we’re becoming lazier by the second! There might be an upswing in call center jobs due to technological unemployment but then again, there seem to be more websites that offer live online chats where a live person is on the other end. I know that I love using the chat feature for tech support.

The loss of service jobs has been a boon to many people around the world. The advancement in technology has not only caused this but has also resulted in increasing unemployment rates among low-skilled workers, especially those who are educated or well-trained. 

For example, airline pilots are now being replaced by self-flying aircraft. What used to be common professions 20 years ago is now obsolete with technological advancements that have replaced them entirely.

A simple search on Google about the term ‘jobs that will be replaced by robots’, returns numerous articles where well-respected publications discuss how automation is taking over manual labor and repetitive tasks including the ones mentioned above. 

While it’s true that robot functionality doesn’t match human efficiency, I’d say it’s safe to say more and more mundane tasks will be done by artificial intelligence or automation. I think we are a long way away from Rosie the Robot from the Jetson’s, but we are heading that way.

Chicken sexers, a profession that hasn’t existed in North America since the ’90s is one of those jobs. It was a job done by people who would separate newly hatched chicks into male and female based on tiny variations in their genitalia. 

I wonder what happened to all of these chicken sexers? Did they get another job with the same salary? Did they have any student debt or did they have rich parents? What were their lives like before they lost their jobs and how did it feel when the Internet killed their careers?

 In my opinion, most of these articles are clickbait because they claim “the internet” is killing jobs which implies everyone knows what the internet is and that every single person has access to it. I started diving into this question and what I found was it wasn’t the internet that killed the job, but the task or skill has evolved or is not how we function any longer.