27 votes

What skill were you once good at that is now completely irrelevant?

E.g. changing a typewriter ribbon, changing the oil in your car.

43 comments

  1. [7]
    NaraVara
    Link
    So this skill is actually still quite relevant, but it depresses me how relevant it is. I'm really good at making macro/script based tools in Excel. In almost every case the function would work...

    So this skill is actually still quite relevant, but it depresses me how relevant it is.

    I'm really good at making macro/script based tools in Excel. In almost every case the function would work more smoothly and more securely if designed as a very simple web app, but most business units in companies won't get you what you need to actually design a web app or get access to a Tableau instance. So I've spent inordinate amounts of time in my life designing reporting tools, dashboards, PTO calculators, dynamic project management charts, and fairly complicated statistical analytics tools entirely in Excel.

    All because corporate enterprise licensing requirements and IT bullshit makes it impossible for me to access the right tools for the job. . .

    20 votes
    1. patience_limited
      Link Parent
      Ask me about the company-wide backup monitoring "system" consisting of a log parser and some Excel macros.

      Ask me about the company-wide backup monitoring "system" consisting of a log parser and some Excel macros.

      7 votes
    2. [3]
      Grendel
      Link Parent
      Okay, so can I pick your brain about this? I work in the IT division of a company that is now providing the tools to move past this stuff (azure functions and webapps and other tools). I've...

      Okay, so can I pick your brain about this? I work in the IT division of a company that is now providing the tools to move past this stuff (azure functions and webapps and other tools). I've applied for a position in egineering where the guy I'll be working with does exactly what you described.

      Any advice or points I can make to help explain why we should move off Excel VB macros? That's all he's ever known (he doesn't come from a Dev background) so I'm concerned he my be resistant to change.

      3 votes
      1. [2]
        NaraVara
        Link Parent
        So the main issue with macro based excel stuff is that it’s completely unmaintainable. As soon as the guy who built it leaves, it will take a successor days to figure out how it worked to patch...

        So the main issue with macro based excel stuff is that it’s completely unmaintainable. As soon as the guy who built it leaves, it will take a successor days to figure out how it worked to patch it. It’s also hard skills to hire for because most people in these roles don’t have the sort of programmer brain it takes to figure it out. (My background was in philosophy, so I could always pretty easily grok how to structure a logical statement that made it easy to learn. Not everyone can.)

        And the maintenance/repair issues compound from the fact that these things are very brittle. An errant copy/paste mistake or even just an inserted column can create an error somewhere else and people might not even know it. And when they find it they might not even know where to start with fixing it. There is no way to validate inputs and, with sufficiently complicated processes, you can’t even really audit or review the outputs it’s giving you, so it ends up being a lot of people taking what this janky spreadsheet tells them on faith, which is really not healthy.

        The main advantage is that it’s something you can just go ahead and do yourself without needing to talk to anyone, get a budget item through, or deal with some enterprise IT requirements like one normally does when they have to achieve some new capability. Especially under a deadline crunch. The ability to just self service without having to deal with bureaucracy or even really pick up the phone and talk to anyone is huge. I think transitioning a person/team that’s really dependent on this sort of thing would probably need to address that concern first to get buy in from people.

        I haven’t seen much to get around that unfortunately. The self service potential with Excel is huge and every alternative involved requires me to go and specify things I need to someone else instead of figuring out what’s useful as I go along. I’m actually trying to help a team set up an ELK stack based backend right now and it seems like I might be able to handle a bunch of stuff they need just with Kibana. But I’m still in the process of learning how actual software dev works.

        8 votes
        1. Grendel
          Link Parent
          Thank you so much for that info! The department I'm currently in is making a huge push for self service. We are going to be giving devs the ability to spin up cloud resources on their own without...

          Thank you so much for that info! The department I'm currently in is making a huge push for self service. We are going to be giving devs the ability to spin up cloud resources on their own without any need to go through the sys admins. Based on what you said this sounds like a good time for me to push for this change since I'll have the support of our IT division. Thanks again 👍

          1 vote
    3. [2]
      Silbern
      Link Parent
      On the other hand, I'm impressed at how capable you've managed to make it. I've always loved seeing tools pushed to their limits, and a dashboard in Excel sounds badass as hell. Could you emulate...

      On the other hand, I'm impressed at how capable you've managed to make it. I've always loved seeing tools pushed to their limits, and a dashboard in Excel sounds badass as hell. Could you emulate a system like that in Access at least? My dad's job primarily involves him managing contracts and schedules, and over the years he developed a pretty robust set of report and scheduling generating tools in Access that automated out some of the tedious aspects of his job. He said it'd be a nightmare to do in Excel, but far more manageable in Access, though I confess I don't really have much knowledge about MS Office or his job to truly know why that is.

      2 votes
      1. NaraVara
        Link Parent
        I’ve actually never used Access. If the scripting language is the same it would probably be doable and easier. Any time my database needs were too complex for Excel I’ve fortunately had stuff...

        I’ve actually never used Access. If the scripting language is the same it would probably be doable and easier. Any time my database needs were too complex for Excel I’ve fortunately had stuff landed on a SQL server somewhere and had access to R or SPSS to do analysis with.

        2 votes
  2. [2]
    MimicSquid
    Link
    I haven't needed to face a shelf of groceries in more than 10 years, but I still find myself wanting to pull everything forward and make sure the front of the label is visible.

    I haven't needed to face a shelf of groceries in more than 10 years, but I still find myself wanting to pull everything forward and make sure the front of the label is visible.

    17 votes
    1. Omnicrola
      Link Parent
      Ex-convenience store clerk here. I don't always face all the things in my fridge, but when I do, it feels pretty awesome.

      Ex-convenience store clerk here. I don't always face all the things in my fridge, but when I do, it feels pretty awesome.

      2 votes
  3. cardigan
    Link
    I can sight-read almost anything in Ancient Greek, and took at least two classes on Attic prose composition.

    I can sight-read almost anything in Ancient Greek, and took at least two classes on Attic prose composition.

    17 votes
  4. boredop
    Link
    Editing audio tape. To be honest, I wasn't too good at it because the industry was already moving over to digital editing by the time my career started. But the ol' tape and razor blade is...

    Editing audio tape. To be honest, I wasn't too good at it because the industry was already moving over to digital editing by the time my career started. But the ol' tape and razor blade is definitely irrelevant now.

    16 votes
  5. kfwyre
    Link
    For some reason my mind went to music. Some of these stretch the definition of "skill" but I include them here as part of the rituals of music listening which are now either downsized...

    For some reason my mind went to music. Some of these stretch the definition of "skill" but I include them here as part of the rituals of music listening which are now either downsized significantly or completely absent:

    • Getting to know the seek speed of your tape player, so that you could get to a certain track you wanted just by "feel"

    • Manually creating your own mixtapes by strategically recording songs you liked when they came on the radio

    • Removing the security tape on the top of a CD jewel case smoothly and without leaving residue (hint: pop the bottom hinge of the front cover out, which lets you separate the front from the back and peel the sticker by manipulating the case pieces alone -- no picking with your fingernail at corners needed!)

    • Softly walking on the floor near your CD player or softly carrying your portable one so it doesn't jostle and skip

    • Ripping, tagging, and organizing digital audio files (a skill that was in constant development as standards and codecs changed over time)

    • Discerning good rips from bad rips, as well as legitimate files from counterfeit ones (e.g. something like "weird_al_beer_song.mp3" which is simply a parody song that is NOT by Weird Al)

    • Customizing foobar2000 skins using Columns UI (I spent dozens if not hundreds of hours doing this)

    • Hunting down plugins for foobar2000/Winamp to play irregular filetypes

    • Burning CDs at low speeds to help prevent skipping

    • Making playlists that came as close to 80 minutes as possible to maximize the number of songs you can fit on one disc

    • Trimming unnecessary seconds from audio files in order to fit all the songs you want onto one 80 minute disc because you can't bring yourself to eliminate even one from the lineup

    • Using a DiscDoctor to resurface scratched CDs in hopes of making them playable again

    • Using ReplayGain data to standardize volume before burning so that tracks all have the same relative loudness when played in your car

    • Keeping archival and portable copies of the same music, so that you always have a lossless backup but you also have small but listenable files that fit on MP3 players' hard drives

    • Logging all non-PC music listening (e.g. MP3 player, car) so that I could later "scrobble" it to my last.fm profile through my computer

    This is all I can think of right now, but if anyone else has any that they want to add to the list, please do!

    8 votes
  6. [2]
    fifthecho
    Link
    In the late '90s I got a really good handle (though no certs) for administration of Novell Netware systems and flashing EEPROMs for ISA network cards to net-boot DR-DOS from a Netware server.

    In the late '90s I got a really good handle (though no certs) for administration of Novell Netware systems and flashing EEPROMs for ISA network cards to net-boot DR-DOS from a Netware server.

    14 votes
    1. pseudolobster
      Link Parent
      There's actually a niche market for this these days among vintage computer enthusiasts. If you ever want to use a hard drive or CF card bigger than 8GB in an old system, there's a modern BIOS...

      flashing EEPROMs for ISA network cards

      There's actually a niche market for this these days among vintage computer enthusiasts. If you ever want to use a hard drive or CF card bigger than 8GB in an old system, there's a modern BIOS available that enables that. Apparently if you just stick it into the socket of an old ISA network card, it'll run via INT 19h during POST, allowing you to boot off big modern drives.

      http://www.xtideuniversalbios.org/

      6 votes
  7. [6]
    Algernon_Asimov
    Link
    Balancing a cheque book. Here in Australia, cheques are nearly obsolete - even for business-to-business payments, which was their last main use. I've written only one cheque in the past 7 years,...

    Balancing a cheque book.

    Here in Australia, cheques are nearly obsolete - even for business-to-business payments, which was their last main use. I've written only one cheque in the past 7 years, and that was in 2015 (I just checked my old cheque book to confirm). At work, more than 95% of our incoming funds are received digitally (only 2 of our customers use cheques). On the outgoing side, I think we don't have the facility to make a payment by cheque even if we wanted to.

    I've learned recently through work that checks are still the go-to method for payment in the USA, which surprised me.

    But, here in Australia, balancing a cheque book is an irrelevant skill.

    14 votes
    1. [2]
      nothis
      Link Parent
      Ah, is this why you constantly hear them mentioned in US movies/TV shows? I live in Europe and literally never saw a "check" in real life. You get the IBAN of the person who wants your money and...

      I've learned recently through work that checks are still the go-to method for payment in the USA, which surprised me.

      Ah, is this why you constantly hear them mentioned in US movies/TV shows? I live in Europe and literally never saw a "check" in real life. You get the IBAN of the person who wants your money and transfer it there via your bank (ebanking app). Or you pay cash.

      I honestly don't even really know how a check works. You bring it to a bank and they transfer money from the person who wrote it to the person it's written to? It seems weird that you can neither know whether the account holds any money or whether the check was faked/stolen/manipulated.

      6 votes
      1. Algernon_Asimov
        Link Parent
        A system like this was recently introduced in Australia. Anyone who wants to, can create a "PayID", and receive payments to their bank account that way. Yep. It's basically a written promise to...

        You get the IBAN of the person who wants your money and transfer it there via your bank (ebanking app).

        A system like this was recently introduced in Australia. Anyone who wants to, can create a "PayID", and receive payments to their bank account that way.

        I honestly don't even really know how a check works. You bring it to a bank and they transfer money from the person who wrote it to the person it's written to?

        Yep. It's basically a written promise to pay. I write a cheque which basically says "Pay €100 to nothis." You take it to your bank, and deposit the cheque into your bank account. Your bank then contacts my bank and requests €100. My bank looks in my account, sees that I have more than €100 there, and withdraws €100. It transfers the funds to your bank. Your bank receives the funds and credits €100 to your bank account. But the process takes a few business days. During that time, I'm able to cancel my cheque, which stops payment.

        It is an untrustworthy method of payment. As you rightly point out, I can write a cheque for €1,000,000 and give it you even if I don't have that money. When your bank contacts my bank, and my bank finds out that I don't have €1,000,000 in my account, the cheque "bounces" - you don't get your money, and I get charged a minor fee for writing a cheque I can't cover. This reference to "bouncing" a cheque led to the phrase "it's a rubber cheque" or "don't take his cheques: they're rubber".

        10 votes
    2. [2]
      Weldawadyathink
      Link Parent
      They certainly are not, at least where I live in California. The only remotely common use I see for them now is for rent, and most landlords will also do something electronic, like venmo. I pay...

      I've learned recently through work that checks are still the go-to method for payment in the USA, which surprised me.

      They certainly are not, at least where I live in California. The only remotely common use I see for them now is for rent, and most landlords will also do something electronic, like venmo. I pay rent through my bank's p2p system, completely digital. My bank will print out a few checks at the teller for free if you ask, and I have never once used that service.

      5 votes
      1. Algernon_Asimov
        Link Parent
        When we request payment from our Australian customers, their first response is to ask for our bank details to transfer the funds online. When we request payment from our American customers, their...

        When we request payment from our Australian customers, their first response is to ask for our bank details to transfer the funds online. When we request payment from our American customers, their first response is to ask for our postal address to mail a check.

        4 votes
    3. sleepydave
      Link Parent
      America's always been behind in terms of banking technologies - Australia and Europe had Chip&Pin/Contactless cards standardised long before the US managed to start rolling them out to any major...

      America's always been behind in terms of banking technologies - Australia and Europe had Chip&Pin/Contactless cards standardised long before the US managed to start rolling them out to any major extent.

      2 votes
  8. AugustusFerdinand
    Link
    Programming payphones, both newer fully digital boards, older dipswitch style, and even older full mechanical setups. Same with pre-networked mechanical and video slot/gambling machines. Plus...

    Programming payphones, both newer fully digital boards, older dipswitch style, and even older full mechanical setups.

    Same with pre-networked mechanical and video slot/gambling machines. Plus older arcade games and prize machines to an extent.

    Both of these were learned when I worked for a company that did the payphones officially and the gambling machines unofficially. The latter are in a technically illegal but still kinda gray area in Texas.

    11 votes
  9. mrbig
    (edited )
    Link
    I made a lot of money filming and editing weddings in the 2000s. I tried getting back a few years ago, but there were simply no jobs left. Nowadays anyone can have a decent camera (or just use...

    I made a lot of money filming and editing weddings in the 2000s. I tried getting back a few years ago, but there were simply no jobs left. Nowadays anyone can have a decent camera (or just use their cell phones), and the average computer can perform basic editing tasks.

    11 votes
  10. [3]
    space_cowboy
    Link
    Mad skill in Macromedia Freehand and ClarisWorks.

    Mad skill in Macromedia Freehand and ClarisWorks.

    10 votes
    1. reese
      Link Parent
      Macromedia/Adobe Flash guy reporting in. People rightfully hate on Flash Player, but the multimedia editing software itself is where I got my start in not only creating vector graphics, but...

      Macromedia/Adobe Flash guy reporting in.

      People rightfully hate on Flash Player, but the multimedia editing software itself is where I got my start in not only creating vector graphics, but animation as well. And it's always been an effective tool for doing so. Communities built around Flash animation are where I discovered artists like Adam Phillips, who recently received a huge grant from Epic Games to build something with the Unreal Engine. But before this recent deal with Epic, Phillips has used ToonBoom (instead of Flash) almost religiously for years.

      Modern iterations of Flash actually included support for JavaScript with the Canvas element, but most people unfamiliar with Flash did not know that. You could also export Flash vector animations directly to After Effects for post-processing, which is basically how some Adult Swim cartoons, such as Aqua Teen Hunger Force, have been animated, if memory serves me right. This is awesome because you can always scale the vectors up for whatever resolution you want and export to video.

      The successor to Flash is Animate, which I have not used because 1) I'm not keen on giving Adobe money right now, and 2) I've largely moved away from 2D vector animation to pursue other interests. But supposedly the integration between Flash and JavaScript APIs is tighter than ever.

      6 votes
    2. balooga
      Link Parent
      I was decent with a handful of free Mac game development platforms in the '90s, like HyperCard, World Builder, SPAM (Single Player Adventure for the Macintosh), and TADS.

      I was decent with a handful of free Mac game development platforms in the '90s, like HyperCard, World Builder, SPAM (Single Player Adventure for the Macintosh), and TADS.

      2 votes
  11. patience_limited
    Link
    VAX/VMS, Novell Netware, and cc:Mail administration. Actually, pretty much every version of Microsoft Exchange prior to 2016 is obsolete, too. I mean, there are some underlying principles that are...

    VAX/VMS, Novell Netware, and cc:Mail administration. Actually, pretty much every version of Microsoft Exchange prior to 2016 is obsolete, too. I mean, there are some underlying principles that are still meaningful, but the systems are long out of service.

    Truly obsolescent skills:

    • repairing dial/touchtone phone handsets;
    • 2-wire phone, audio, and (soon) data cabling installation;
    • changing tires (durability is so good I haven't had to in 15 years);
    • installing and troubleshooting SCSI drives;
    • custom-building personal computers and servers (no longer economical; for servers, it's more efficient to use elastic services);
    • replacing anything soldered to a PCB (it's literally not worth the labor cost anymore).
    9 votes
  12. [3]
    Thrabalen
    Link
    Making autoexec.bat files to be able to manage loading games easier in Windows.

    Making autoexec.bat files to be able to manage loading games easier in Windows.

    9 votes
    1. pseudolobster
      Link Parent
      @ECHO OFF DOS=HIGH,UMB SMARTDRV.EXE /X SET BLASTER=I5 D3 A220 MSCDEX.EXE /D:MSCD001 /L:D C:\DEXXA\MOUSE.EXE I forget the rest. I know I needed to use DMA 3 for my ad1816 sound card, since I had a...
      @ECHO OFF
      DOS=HIGH,UMB
      SMARTDRV.EXE /X
      SET BLASTER=I5 D3 A220
      MSCDEX.EXE /D:MSCD001 /L:D
      C:\DEXXA\MOUSE.EXE
      

      I forget the rest. I know I needed to use DMA 3 for my ad1816 sound card, since I had a SCSI card that used DMA 1.

      Funny that I remember all this but I sometimes have a hard time remembering my birthday.

      8 votes
    2. cfabbro
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      Ditto, but for use in DOS for me, which often required also editing the himem.sys file to get things working too. I do not miss the days when that was necessary. And related: I still know how to...

      Ditto, but for use in DOS for me, which often required also editing the himem.sys file to get things working too. I do not miss the days when that was necessary.

      And related: I still know how to set up a direct cable connection between two PCs via parallel and serial ports, using laplink cables and null modems... another completely useless skill these days given the fact those ports aren't standard on PCs anymore, and thanks to the ubiquity of ethernet/wifi cards and consumer grade home networking equipment. :P

      2 votes
  13. [11]
    envy
    Link
    Do you seriously think that changing the oil in your car is completely irrelevant?

    Do you seriously think that changing the oil in your car is completely irrelevant?

    6 votes
    1. skybrian
      Link Parent
      Maybe for someone who no longer has a car?

      Maybe for someone who no longer has a car?

      10 votes
    2. Silbern
      Link Parent
      It's definitely not for most people, but electric cars are starting to take off, and they don't use oil or need it changed. This is definitely a 10-20 year down the road thing, but it's pretty...

      It's definitely not for most people, but electric cars are starting to take off, and they don't use oil or need it changed. This is definitely a 10-20 year down the road thing, but it's pretty conceviable that when I become a grumpy middle aged man, I'll be telling the kids of 2040 about how we used to drive cars running on controlled explosions.

      9 votes
    3. Akir
      Link Parent
      I don't know how true it may be, but I have heard that some extremely expensive high performance cars have oil change procedures that you are only supposed to have it done by licensed mechanics.

      I don't know how true it may be, but I have heard that some extremely expensive high performance cars have oil change procedures that you are only supposed to have it done by licensed mechanics.

      3 votes
    4. [7]
      asteroid
      Link Parent
      It is for me. It used to be that nearly everybody I knew changed their own oil and did their own car maintenance. Perhaps some part of it is that we earned enough money to afford to pay someone...

      It is for me.

      It used to be that nearly everybody I knew changed their own oil and did their own car maintenance. Perhaps some part of it is that we earned enough money to afford to pay someone else to do it, but also it got so complex that it became specialized knowledge. Also, not so much fun.

      3 votes
      1. [5]
        envy
        (edited )
        Link Parent
        Gotcha. Changing the oil is still the simple DIY task it has always been. Jack up car so that it looks mostly safe. Put a drain pan under car. Undo drain bolt. Drip hot carcinogenic oil over your...

        Gotcha. Changing the oil is still the simple DIY task it has always been.

        1. Jack up car so that it looks mostly safe.

        2. Put a drain pan under car.

        3. Undo drain bolt. Drip hot carcinogenic oil over your arm. Drop the drain bolt into the drain pan. Spend the next five minutes fishing around for it.

        4. Replace old oil filter with new oil filter.

        5. Pour in new oil.

        6. Realize you forgot to put drain bolt back in, and your new oil is pouring all over the garage floor. Redo step 5 properly.

        7. Make a dogs breakfast of pouring the used oil back into the original containers for recycling.

        Edit: Speling.

        6 votes
        1. [4]
          Algernon_Asimov
          Link Parent
          Would that include pouring the oil, or does it have to be poor oil? ;)

          Redo step 5 properly.

          Would that include pouring the oil, or does it have to be poor oil? ;)

          1 vote
          1. [3]
            envy
            Link Parent
            Well if it isn't my fourth favorite Aussie, back again. For a while there, I thought I was going to have to learn how to run spell check and correctly tag posts.

            Well if it isn't my fourth favorite Aussie, back again.

            For a while there, I thought I was going to have to learn how to run spell check and correctly tag posts.

            1 vote
            1. [2]
              Algernon_Asimov
              Link Parent
              Who are the other three? (Just asking for statistical - not homicidal - purposes.)

              Who are the other three? (Just asking for statistical - not homicidal - purposes.)

              3 votes
              1. envy
                Link Parent
                Old friends who moved to Aus.

                Old friends who moved to Aus.

                1 vote
      2. Algernon_Asimov
        Link Parent
        My father used to work on his own cars. For instance: he once dismantled a whole car engine (for some esoteric reason) and then reassembled it. He knows his stuff. These days, he says he doesn't...

        but also it got so complex that it became specialized knowledge.

        My father used to work on his own cars. For instance: he once dismantled a whole car engine (for some esoteric reason) and then reassembled it. He knows his stuff.

        These days, he says he doesn't understand car engines, and has to get them serviced by other people.

        2 votes
  14. ubergeek
    Link
    Cursive writing, and d'nealian script.

    Cursive writing, and d'nealian script.

    5 votes
  15. DVNO42
    Link
    My first tech job I was responsible for configuring serial multiplexers to connect dump clients (the serial kind) to mainframes over DDS and Frame Relay circuits. All analog and old as dirt....

    My first tech job I was responsible for configuring serial multiplexers to connect dump clients (the serial kind) to mainframes over DDS and Frame Relay circuits. All analog and old as dirt. Learned a ton but I'll never use that info again.

    4 votes