November 24, 2003

Cheaper by the Dozen

I just learned about the remake of "Cheaper by the Dozen", the film version of the book of the same name depicting Frank and Lillian Gilbreath raising 12 kids.

"Cheaper" was one of the reasons I got into Industrial Engineering--I read the book as a kid and found the practicality of methods improvement almost as intriguing as the book's humor.

The Gilbreath's analysis and improvement of work processes helped foster the human factors and usability disciplines we have today. Breaking down a process into "fundamental components of work" was their game, a precursor to the task analysis we do now. Their branding of fundamental hand and arm motions as "therbligs" (a jumbled "Gilbreath") were the usability design patterns of their era.

And this was all during the 1920s, too.

Sadly, it seems that the new movie isn't about the Gilbreaths at all--they changed the story where the father character, played by Steve Martin, is now a college football coach.

Official movie site:

Posted by jameshom at November 24, 2003 12:57 PM | TrackBack
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Yes, I too read the book, and saw the 1950 movie, which not only showed how a couple of IE could maximize the efficiency of a group of 12 individuals, but, indirectly, showed how EVERY kid of that generation was expected to know the "Three R's" before joining society. And of course, those "Rs" were Responsibility, Resourcefulness, and Respect (for self and others.)

For studios to bank on such values being relevant, let alone entertaining, today would be wishful thinking to the max.

Posted by: normfromga at January 20, 2004 01:18 PM
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