80s Jobs that Don’t Exist Anymore

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by Staff & Contributors

in Gaming & Tech

Introducing yourself as an app developer, a social media manager or a blogger at a party in the 1980s would have drawn more than a few confused looks. Most probably the person you were talking to would have furrowed their brow, then made some polite mm-hmm noise before picking up another cheese and pineapple stick and moving on. Of course the whole traveling back in time business hasn’t been worked out just yet, but traveling forward in time is something we all do, often more quickly than we’d like. So let’s flip that conversation on its head and look at some of the 1980s jobs which have gone extinct, and which would have the kids scratching their heads today.

 

Video Store Clerk

Many of us have spent hours mooching around video stores – and its descendent, the DVD rental store – looking for that perfect Friday night flick. We’ve all experienced our share of duds, but what can you expect when you are literally judging a book (okay a movie, but you get the idea) by its cover? Now we can just let Netflix do the work for us.

 

Switchboard Operator

Think of a switchboard operator, and your mind’s eye probably goes into sepia-vision as you think about a lady in the 1940s transferring a call from Winston Churchill through to FDR. But believe it or not, switchboard operators were… operating(?) right up until the early 1980s.

 

Milkman

There is a definite nostalgia involved in hearing the rattle of bottles early in the morning, and opening up your front door to see that your milk has been delivered. Even by the 1980s the long-term career prospects for this job weren’t looking to rosy. I mean, why milk? How about the bread-man, the Cheerios-man or the beer-man? Anyway the practice has all but disappeared by now, except for a few hipster hold-outs.

 

Film Boxer and Shipper

O-kaaay. So you want me to take this enormous roll of celluloid, package it up carefully in this metal canister so it doesn’t get damaged, then call a courier and get them to deliver it to the studio? Sure, I can do that. Or, how about I just press this button to compress the file and then email it to them?

 

Typesetter

The whole business of printing was a lot more complicated back in the day. In the past when you wanted to print up a newspaper it involved a lot of moving metal plates around so that everything would turn out correctly. Right up until the 1990s phototypesetting machines were used in advertising and design. Nowadays, any dope with access to a computer and a digital printer can come up with something that would have taken hours of your 1980s life to produce.

 

Chimney Sweeps

We’re not talking about those undernourished orphans the Victorians used to send up chimneys to scrape off soot by hand. We mean the person you used to come round to your house and stick brushes up there on a series of precarious looking shafts. Now most people don’t even have chimneys that work, and if they do, there are machines to do the cleaning.

 

Walkman Manufacturers

Okay this is kind of cheating. We could have included beeper manufacturers, fax machine repairers or Jolt Cola testers. (That last one was a pretty specialized role). But the Walkman is just such an eighties icon that it’s hard to ignore. Remember those mix tapes you used to make? Remember when you were on a long journey and you only had that one tape you had to play over and over? Remember when the tape would get all tangled up and you had to try and unspool it with a biro? Actually, now is better.

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