March 22, 2018

Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow

Or, how has the world of work changed over the last 100 years, and crucially, what will it look like 100 years from now?

Fundamentally, nothing has really changed. People did what needed to be done but between about 1880 and the start of the First World War, the paradigm-shifting effects of the Industrial Revolution took jobs out of the rural theatre and into the cities.

Then & Now

There are plenty of professions that haven’t really changed at all, there are plenty that have and there are plenty that couldn’t have been imagined even by the finest minds of the age.

The professions of law, accountancy and banking really haven’t changed that much aside from Excel and calculators replacing counting beans and abacuses, and nor have jobs like hairdressing, gardening and cooking. Styles and fashions change but people wanted delicious food prepared with good quality ingredients and neatly clipped gardens and heads in 1900 the same way they do today.

But there are plenty of jobs that existed then that would be completely alien to us today…


Gas Lamplighters Then: Loads In the early 19th century, gas lamps in the street needed to be lit every night and extinguished every morning and each town or village had a lamplighter tasked with illuminating the streets. The death-knell sounded for the first time in 1879 in Newcastle when the first electric streetlights were installed and by 1910, almost the entire country’s streetlights were electric.

Gas Lamplighters Now: None There are plenty of gas lamps in towns up and down the country but they are either decorative legacies of times past or have been converted to electric.

Compositors Then: Loads A compositor was the person at a newspaper or printer who would set, compose and arrange movable type for printing. They would load up the lettering ensuring the right size, font, order and direction in a composing stick, it would be transferred to the paper and then run off. A good compositor could pick up between two and three thousand types an hour.

Compositors Now: Very Few Industrial-scale printers and computerisation put paid to the composition industry in the 1950s and by the 1970s, the entire industry was dead. Sad, but inevitable. The last skilled compositors are purely decorative and can mostly be found in museums.


Knocker-Uppers Then: Loads A knocker-upper was a local who was literally paid to wake people up. Before the advent of alarm clocks, schoolboys, women and even policemen would earn a few extra pennies by going to people’s houses at a specific time in the morning and knocking on the upstairs window with a long stick. They could leave when they were sure the person was awake.

*Profound Question Alert* Who woke up the knocker-upper?

Knocker-Uppers Now: None Alarm clocks got invented.


Aircraft Listeners Then: Loads Up until as recently as the 1930s, our sole defence against enemy aircraft was huge war tubas. They were massive ear trumpets set on high ground designed to funnel the sound of incoming airships and planes into headphones whereby planes could be scrambled to intercept them. They looked ridiculous but proved to be surprisingly effective as an early warning system.

Aircraft Listeners Now: None Radar was developed in the early years of the Second World War and while the huge trumpets were still used in Japan, our radar systems were enough for the RAF to defeat the Luftwaffe in the Battle of Britain.



We know that in a lot of industries, automation has replaced (or will replace) manual labour but what will the working landscape look like a century from now? 1950s sci-fi writers thought we’d be living on the moon with robot butlers and many of us of a certain age are still waiting patiently for hoverboards, but in the unlikely event of any of those things happening, what jobs will our great-great-great-grandchildren be applying for?

Would we have laughed in the late 1980s if someone said you’d be able to make a very comfortable living as a life coach, YouTuber or blogger? Probably.

In truth, we have no idea what people are going to be doing (or earning) in 2118 and it has been estimated that 60% of the jobs people will be doing in just a decade from now haven’t been invented yet but there are a number of industries either in their infancy or a twinkle in Elon Musk’s eye. Which one of these do you fancy?

Clone Ranchers After giving birth to a ‘blank human’ we will be able to download our chosen sex, hair colour, height and even personality.

Organists Not the kind you’ll find in Westminster Abbey but the kind who will be able to grow replacement organs and limbs based on a specific set of requirements.

Nano-Weapons Specialist Our weapons of the future will be tiny. So tiny in fact that they will be invisible to the naked eye. And therefore far more dangerous.

Natural Forecasters We will know when natural disasters like earthquakes, tornadoes and tidal waves are about to hit, what damage they will do and what we can do to prepare other than boarding up shopfronts.

Amnesia Surgeons The medical profession will be advanced enough to be able to erase bad memories or destructive behaviour.

Time Bankers If you’re short at the end of the month you can go to and borrow a few quid to pay your credit card bill but what if you haven’t got enough time? Will you be able to take out a time loan?

This really is the pinnacle of speculation but if you leave a note in a dresser somewhere telling your future relatives to learn Chinese and focus their career choices on renewable energy, cryptocurrency and biomedical science, it’s they will be fine.

Anyway, we’ll be back with some more great water-cooler stuff in a couple of weeks but in the meantime, have a squizz through our vacancies to see if there’s anything you fancy.

Lastly, if there’s anything you want to read more about, please let us know and we’ll seriously consider it.

Catch you soon.

The Liquid Team