People Are Sharing The Everyday Jobs They Used To Work That Have Slowly Become Obsolete Over Time, And I Never Considered Some Of These Until Now


Jobs have evolved and changed over the years thanks to many factors (including technology), so much so that some jobs are either extremely uncommon nowadays or have become entirely obsolete. Recently, I asked BuzzFeed Community members to share with me the job they once had that doesn’t really exist anymore, and I’m completely fascinated. Here are some jobs from “way back when” that you might not have even realized fizzled out:

1.“In the mid-’80s, I processed checks for a bank. I’d sit at a large machine the size of a business desk and type into the 19-key keypad the dollar amount written on each check before dropping it into the slot that would encode the amount onto the check. Then, I’d whisk it into a stack of already-processed checks. I’d work on stacks of hundreds of checks, listening to cassette tapes on my Sony Walkman. Now, that job has been replaced by a small machine half the size of a loaf of bread that sits next to the bank teller. All the teller has to do is drop the check into it and it’ll automatically read and encode the check amount right there at the window.”

A person in a business suit working at a computer in a bustling office setting

—Charlie, 57, California

South China Morning Post / South China Morning Post via Getty Images

2.“I started working for the telephone company right out of high school. I worked on the cord board, where you actually connect phone calls with cords. We announced person-to-person calls and collect calls. We also looked up the amount to charge for payphone calls; we’d collect the money when a call got disconnected. It wasn’t unusual to have six or seven calls going at the same time, so we had to be quick and pay attention all the time. I went on to have a career with the phone company, but my first job was my favorite. I loved it!”

—homeydog257

3.“For almost all of the ’90s, I worked for a beeper company. People forget how widely popular those things were.”

Motorola pager displaying time and date, related to communication in work environments
James Keyser / Getty Images

4.“I worked as a photo developer at a chain camera shop. We developed the film negatives, ran the negatives through a viewer to adjust any flaws in the brightness/contrast/color, and then put the developed prints through a chemical process. I fell asleep at the viewer more times than I can count. I will never forget the smell while cleaning the chemical vats in the machines. We had no protective gear — just gloves up to our elbows.”

—shinystar10

5.“I used to deliver the Yellow Pages.”

Pile of various phone directories and books indicating potential job search resources
Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

6.“While I was in college in the early 2000s, I worked at a paint store. Digital paint-matching machines didn’t really exist yet, so I was trained to be a custom color matcher. People would bring in paint chips from competitors and ask me to make that specific color. Or, they would bring toys, pillows, jewelry, and other items and ask me to match the color. I got quite good. I think it’s a skill that’s now lost because the color-matching machines have taken over.”

—Kate, 43

7.“Blockbuster. I still tell people that was the best job I’ve ever had. As a shift manager, I was making $10/hour when the minimum wage was, like, $5.50. I got five free rentals a week, including video games, if I wanted. We could take movies home once we got them in the store, even before they were officially released. We were actually encouraged to watch the new releases so we could tell customers about them and make recommendations. The only downside was customers complaining about late fees or movies being out of stock, but I’d mostly shrug my shoulders or just credit them a free rental if they got really angry. It was a super easy and well-paying job for someone in school.”

Hand holding a Blockbuster DVD case, indicating past era of video rental stores in contrast to modern streaming for the Work & Money category
Craig Mitchelldyer / Getty Images

8.“Before Apple and computer graphics, I worked as a ‘Paste-Up Artist.’ I created artboards for newspapers and other printed products. This is where many of the terms used in Adobe products originally came from.”

—rich9

9.“Phone psychic! It was probably the worst job I’ve ever had. TV commercials made the job seem like it would be a fun night out with the girls in a Cosmo magazine sort-of-way. But no — nearly every call I took was from someone skulking about and waiting for money to magically fall from the sky or someone wondering about a lover. People told me they were spending money for groceries to ask me to predict the winning lottery numbers. It was depressing and exploitative.”

Woman holding multiple bills with a look of concern, displaying a large, outdated mobile phone
Glenn Koenig / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

10.“After high school in the ’80s, I worked at a catalog showroom. Customers would order items after looking at displays and write them up. Then, we’d retrieve what they ordered from the back warehouse, and the customers would leave with whatever they wanted from the catalog.”

—donaldhauptmann

11.“In the 1970s and ’80s, I was a keypunch operator. I spent all day keying written information into clunky IBM keyboards and creating stacks upon stacks of 80-column cards. I quickly learned that dropping a stack created an out-of-order disaster that required meticulously looking at the original paperwork to put them all back in the correct sequence.”

Person typing on an IBM computer punch card machine used for data entry

12.“I spent the summer of 1993 working in a reservation center for a major European airline. First, I spent six weeks learning the rather complicated airline reservation system on a computer that, nowadays, would seem ridiculously archaic. Then, I was put in a huge room full of telephone reservationists. Sometimes, supervisors would listen in on the calls to ensure we were selling the flights ‘correctly.’ Anyway, I imagine you can still call a number to make a flight reservation (and travel agents do still exist), but that reservation center I worked at is surely gone. That, and most people book online or through apps.”

—gwinevere

13.“I started out as a secretary. I typed correspondence on an electric typewriter, transcribed taped dictation from a cassette, and took messages on paper pads. I am now an ‘Ambassador of First Impressions,’ which is a fancy way of saying administrative assistant. Now, I type correspondence on a computer, set up spreadsheets in Excel, and take messages over the phone and email them to the necessary people. It’s the same job, sure, but it’s different technology, titles, and terminology.”

Person using a transcription machine and headphones at a work desk

14.“In the late ’90s, I was a 411 operator.”

—jodied476babc6e

15.“I was an editor’s assistant in the early 1990s. My job was to sign editors’ names to hundreds of story inquiry letters sent out to hundreds of companies to solicit stories for the magazine. I had to sign them by hand because a stamp looked ‘too impersonal.’ These companies received multiple letters from different editors, and I often wondered if they’d ever noticed that every letter had the same handwriting. Today, all of this would be done through email.”

Woman sitting on floor sorting through scattered papers, indicative of financial planning or organization
Peter Bischoff / Getty Images

16.“I used to sit at a desk and hand-cut the advertisements that were placed in giant phone directories like the Yellow Pages. The books were hand-delivered to homes, and that was the only way to look up phone numbers.”

—Rosalie, 55, California

17.“I was a paper boy for years. I would get up at 4 a.m. on Sundays to put the supplement pack into the Sunday broadsheets. We don’t need any of that anymore, though.”

Smiling paperboy tosses newspaper while riding a bike

18.“Collections. I used to work for the LA Times to collect past-due newspaper subscriptions. We’d get a list every morning and drive to residential and business subscribers requesting their past-due subscriptions.”

—Anonymous

19.“When I was a teenager in the ’80s, I was an intern responsible for carrying around a senior executive’s mobile phone. The phone and its battery filled a large leather satchel that weighed about 15 pounds, and I — in my skirt suit and bowtie — would lug it around everywhere.”

Person holds a large, vintage mobile phone, demonstrating outdated technology in relation to work and connectivity

20.“I worked at Musicland in the early ’90s. It sold fairly new records, tapes, and CDs and had a listening station where you could listen to music samples with headphones. Mind you, this was considered really advanced at the time. When New Kids On The Block’s new album came out, there was a line out the door. People could buy concert tickets to major shows, and we would fan them out so customers could see the best seats and prices. There’s so much I just described that is rare nowadays; it feels like it wasn’t that long ago.”

—Anonymous, 49, Minnesota

21.Lastly: “I worked at a Hollywood Video in the early 2000s while in high school. It was a great job. I wasn’t a movie buff then, but I learned a lot about cinema. Because of that job, I watched a lot of films I never would’ve watched from people’s recommendations. When it was slow, customers would chat with us about their selections, and I particularly liked talking to the older folks. I still miss walking through the aisles to pick out a movie. There’s something so special about it that endlessly scrolling through Netflix can’t replace.”

Person browsing through a selection of DVDs in a store, indicative of consumer choice in the entertainment market
The Sydney Morning Herald / Fairfax Media via Getty Images

BRB, gonna walk through the DVD section of Target to try and feel the same way I felt walking through the aisles of a Hollywood Video store. If you worked a job in the past that no longer exists in 2024, what was it? Let me know in the comments, or you can anonymously submit using this form!

Note: Some submissions have been edited for length and/or clarity.



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