Obsolete Jobs from the 90s Memorialized in Movies

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Recently my kids and I sat down to watch a classic movie of my generation, Empire Records. It’s one of my favorites because a friend of my worked on the film and I worked at an independent record store in the mid 90s when it was made.


While it wasn’t as sensationalized as the movie that gave kick starts to the careers of Liv Tyler, Renée Zellweger, Anthony LaPaglia, Ethan Embry, Robin Tunney, Rory Cochrane and several others, the experience was one of the most amazing, life shaping times in my life.


The characters all had to band together and save the store from the necessity of “selling out” to “the man.” Similarly the small store where I worked fought the system to stay open for several years before shutting its doors like the other independent music vendors in the area.


With the dawn of digital music and the technology to download songs and albums from the internet even corporate music stores struggle to stay open. Bookstores began adding large music sections to their inventory but as evident by the closing of the Borders chain recently, bookstores are on the endangered companies list too.


Media has changed so much since Empire Records came out. I recently realized several of my first jobs barely exist as anything more than memories in movies and TV shows from my youth. Take a look at some of the bullet points from way back on my resume and reminisce with me:


Video Store Clerk – Netflix just added the entire series of Dawson’s Creek, which was a guilty pleasure I had back in the day. Watching the pilot episode as Pacy and Dawson discussed innuendo behind the counter I remembered my time spent managing a video store. Now store fronts everywhere are littered with little Redboxes and the last Blockbuster in any reasonable distance has liquidated its inventory.

Photo Lab Attendant – My career developing photos was short-lived, destroyed just like that of Dave and Chainsaw from the Mark Harmon movie Summer School. Digital photography and online sharing has more pictures pinned to Facebook walls than refrigerators. Few stores have film processing centers anymore and send any rolls they get off to the lab to be developed.

Magazine Salesperson – Working as a magazine salesperson was one of the least lucrative positions I ever had so it doesn’t surprise me that you don’t see teams of college students knocking on doors or cornering people at the mall anymore. Maybe I would have had more success if I used a spiel like the one Orlando Jones offered up in the workingman’s classic Office Space.

Public Access TV Crew – When we watched Wayne’s World my kids were mesmerized by this strange phenomenon known as public access television. They’ve grown up either streaming their entire entertainment experience through the computer and game system or watching old DVDs and VHSs I’ve collected over the years. Seeing Wayne and Garth perform their shtick the kids wondered why they didn’t just post their show on YouTube.

Arcade Attendant – The social dynamics of gaming has changed so much that coin jockeys at strip mall arcades are pretty much a thing of the past. Even the legacy of Tron and Flynn’s arcade in all of its glory can’t bring a reboot to the standard old school gaming establishments. Upscale adult arcades are finding a niche market but boy-crazy teenage girls are going to have to truck it to the food court if they want to flirt with their classmates.


Fortunately I have survived in the multimedia field by trying to keep up with the technology trends. Because of my background in media past I’ve found fun and financial rewards in jobs like digital photography, graphic design, and website development. The trick is not to be defined by your past but make your skills valuable for the future.


Have you had a job that doesn’t seem to exist anymore or is on the way out? Feel free to reminisce about what it was and why the field died in the comments below.


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