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We all like to joke about the impending robot apocalypse; the hilarious, fiery doom that awaits us at the "hands" of sentient machines turning against their very creators. Good times. And though the merciless genocide of the human race may not actually come to pass, the automated takeover of the workforce is very real. So real, in fact, that it’s already happened in a lot of industries. We spend a lot of time talking about which jobs are going to be lost to automation, but the truth is it’s already been happening for over a century. That alone should calm down some of the hysteria. This isn't the coming apocalypse, but rather the way the workforce has been developing for some time. That said, high unemployment rates are scary, so I've chosen to highlight thirteen jobs for maximum spookiness. So reach deep down and pull out your best South Park “they terk er jerbs” impression while we look at the past, present, and future of automation in the workforce.

Bank Teller/ATM

13 Jobs Lost to the Automation Uprising

Though bank teller is still a very widespread profession and there are several things a bank patron might need to do that can't be performed by an automated teller machine, ATMs remain one of the earliest and most successful examples of the automated workforce. Though little is known about the earliest incarnation of the ATM, a "Computer Loan Machine" operating in Japan in 1966, it's widely accepted that the first official modern ATM went live in London, England, in June of 1967. The ATM actually predates the bank card, and the early models accepted paper checks issued by a bank teller or cashier. John Shepherd-Barron, whose team is credited with the invention and installation of the 1967 ATM, claimed that he thought of a chocolate bar dispenser and simply replaced the chocolate bar with cash.

Knocker-Up

13 Jobs Lost to the Automation Uprising

Nowadays everyone just uses their smartphone (and even pre-smart cellphones) to wake themselves up in the morning. Before that, there were a variety of dedicated alarm clocks throughout the decades. What about before those clocks existed, though? They had to be invented at some point, and then they had to become affordable and readily available. It's hard to imagine such a time, but that time existed. Enter the knocker-up.

Alarm clocks weren't cheap and they weren't super reliable either. Britain and Ireland dealt with this problem using knocker-ups, men and women who would go window to window, knocking with a baton or a stick until they were sure the person was awake. They would sometimes use longer, lighter sticks or snuffer outers (tools used to put out gas lamps) to reach the windows of those on higher floors.

This job was often done by senior citizens who would collect a few pence a week, or police constables would do it on their morning patrols as a way to earn some side money.

Bowling Alley Pinsetter

13 Jobs Lost to the Automation Uprising


The earliest form of bowling dates back to ancient Egypt and despite what you might have learned from Ancient Aliens, they didn't have mechanical pinsetters back then. The mechanical pinsetter was invented by Gottfried Schmidt, who sold the patent in 1941, more or less signing the death warrant for manual pinsetting as a profession. The occupation is often referred to as "pinboy," because the job was regularly performed by teenage boys, on account of the low pay, low hours, and evening schedules. A rare few bowling alleys still employ manual pinsetters, though at this point it's simply a novelty. A "pinchaser" is often employed, however, to monitor the machines and ensure everything runs smoothly.

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