5 Town Crier
Before the days of the Internet, there was the radio and the telephone. Before the days of the radio and the telephone, there was some guy walking around ringing a bell yelling stuff. He was the town crier, AKA the bellman, and his calls of “Hear Ye! Hear Ye!” prefaced the spread of vital information, usually about comical acts of oafishness or about an impending attack by the British army.
4 Pin Monkey
If your job title was “pin monkey” you were probably thrilled by the invention of a mechanical process of gathering and resetting bowling pins. As a pin monkey (or a pinsetter, more properly) in the days when each frame required a manual reset, you had an essentially Sisyphean task. Every time you set the pins up in such perfect, neat order, some jerk knocked them down again!
Alchemists kept at it for hundreds of years, but damned if they just couldn’t find a way to transform anything into gold. Now that we have a modern understanding of what an element is, namely something that is elemental in its nature, we know that the “profession” of alchemy was a total waste of time and based on a complete misunderstanding of nature. A pretty cool way to waste your time, though. Lots of fun powders and bubbling beakers and such.
When most people hear the word “reaper,” they picture the iconic image of Death (the Grim Reaper) wearing a black cowl and carrying a sinister-looking scythe. For centuries – millennia, in fact – a reaper was indeed a rather grim occupation, but not because it dealt with death, but rather because it meant spending hours every day of your life marching through grain fields chopping stalks of grains down to be harvested. By the mid-1800s, machines replaced field hands, and few people were upset at the disappearance of this thrilling profession.
1 Chimney Sweep
There are still chimneys, and they still need to be cleaned when the soot and grime built up within them reaches certain levels, of course. But the days of the Dickensian child chimney sweep are, thankfully, over. Today, chimney sweeps use tools and technology such as cameras, vacuums and chemical cleaners to maintain chimneys rather than tying ropes around small children and lowering them into sooty black chambers of disease and death. So that’s some progress for you.