Job skills change with technology
April 6, 2015
by Ivan Raconteur

Advances in technology have created new jobs. They have also changed or eliminated other jobs.

I was thinking recently about some job skills I have learned over the years that have become obsolete.

When I was in school, I took a printing class. We learned to set lead type by hand, which seemed primitive even back then.

At no time since leaving that class have I been called upon to use those skills.

I have heard about printers who have restored and maintained vintage presses and use them for high-end, small-run printing, but these tend to be specialized situations, rather than high-demand jobs.

Later, I worked in a photo lab. People would bring in film from their cameras, and we would process the film, print photos, duplicates, or enlargements, and cut negatives.

At the time, mini labs like the one where I worked were everywhere. The rise of digital photography changed all that quickly.

Not only did we process film and print photos in that store, but we sold film and accessories. No doubt there are people today who have never used a film camera, and wouldn’t know what to do with one. I suspect some people may have never used any camera, other than the one on their phone or tablet.

The fact is, for many people, phone cameras are adequate for their purposes.

In a very short time, the quality of phone cameras has improved dramatically, and the images they produce are surprisingly good.

The first camera I owned was a film camera, and it required the use of flash bulbs. If one tries to explain that setup to young people today, they are likely to act as if one is describing something from the ancient times.

My second camera was one of those units that used a special kind of film pack, and produced photos that developed on the spot. The camera was huge, the film was ridiculously expensive, and the photo quality was poor, but the camera was great fun for parties. My friends and I could take photos of one another and watch them develop before our eyes.

I still have the last film camera I purchased. It lives on a shelf in the spare bedroom. The camera was expensive, and I purchased a variety of expensive lenses and accessories to go with it.

The camera and accessories became worthless practically overnight when digital cameras hit the market.

Software is another area in which technology has made old skills outdated.

The word processing software that we used at my first newspaper job in college – Volkswriter – essentially disappeared not long after I left the school. At no time since leaving college did I work anywhere that used that software.

We learned to adapt quickly in those days.

I grew up in the era of manual typewriters, film cameras, and land-line telephones. I witnessed firsthand the transition to electric typewriters, word processors, and, finally, personal computers.

Today, tiny tablets have dramatically more computing power and features than we could have imagined when the first home computers were introduced, and they cost a fraction of the price.

I saw the transition from the introduction of mobile phones, to a world in which nearly everyone has a cell phone and fewer people each year have a land line.

When I started in the purchasing field, most orders were faxed to our vendors. It wasn’t long before faxes essentially became obsolete, and we did everything through e-mail.

Today’s journalism students will work in a very different world than those who graduated a few years ago.

The new journalists won’t be tied to a desk.

Even today, many media professionals do much of their work on their smart phones and tablets.

They can record interviews, take notes on a touch screen, use voice recognition software to transcribe material, as well as taking photos and recording video, all from the same device, and they can send this material back to their office wirelessly, or post information online from wherever they are.

This is an exciting time to be a journalist, as it is to work in other fields that are changing rapidly.

As I look back at the changes we have seen just in the past decade, it’s difficult to imagine what the employment landscape will look like in the years ahead.

One thing seems certain. We will need to be prepared to adapt if we are going to survive.

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