Make your own free website on
Newsletter of the Gilbreth Network
Navigate our site:

The Quest index
Web links
Bulletin board
Contact us

Welcome to the current issue of The Quest, Vol. 7, No. 1, Summer 2003, published in June 2003. The Quest is published quarterly.

The Quest is published by and copyright David Ferguson.

Inside this Issue:

See The Quest index for back issues of the newsletter.

Volume 7, Number 1
Summer 2003

As we announced in the last issue of The Quest, we will be starting to send the newsletter as an e-mail attachment to a number of our members. This is in an effort to both reduce our costs and time involved in producing the newsletter. Postage costs have continued to rise, at the same time donations to the Network, has dropped off. Also, we have over 100 people on our current mailing list, which is becoming a daunting task for one person to produce.

The following members will continue to receive The Quest by mail, unless they make a special request for e-mail distribution:

  • Past Financial Donors
  • Writers of Past Articles
  • Those listing no e-mail address
  • Institutions

If you don't fall into one of these groups, but receive this copy by mail, it means I don't have a good e-mail address for you. Please e-mail me with your correct e-mail address.

If you have any questions or want to update your e-mail address, please contact me. DSF

It is with deep sadness that we report the loss of Jack Gilbreth, who passed away on Christmas morning, 2002. Jack was the tenth of the Gilbreth dozen and for many years, lived in Montclair, NJ.

I had the pleasure of meeting Jack, twice, in 1996. We found that we shared some similar experiences in troubleshooting problems in various industrial factories and shared our individual 'war stories.' Later, I was fortunate enough to get a guided tour of Montclair, with Jack as the tour guide. What a wonderful treat that was for me.

Jack will be missed.

For those who haven't heard, the long anticipated remake of Cheaper by the Dozen has started filming. At this writing, we know that Steve Martin (Father of the Bride and many other films) has been cast as the father of the dozen.

The story is based on the concept of the original film, but set in modern times, with the mother being a relative of Lillian Gilbreth. It will be interesting to see how this large family copes in modern times. Will Foolish Carriage be an SUV? How will they fit all those children in today's smaller house? It should be fun.

For those who still love the original movie, it is our understanding the Fox will be re-releasing the video. Watch your local dealer or rental store, likely around the time that the new movie comes out.

As you have probably noted, The Quest has not been published as frequently this year. First, I have had many demands on my time. While I have been unable to find full-time work, the independent consulting practice I'm trying to start has taken more time than I expected. Also, after six years of writing the newsletter, new ideas for articles come a little harder.

Let me again ask that our members consider writing articles for future issues. These articles can be on any Gilbreth-related topic. Short articles, letters, etc., are particularly welcomed. You can e-mail your submission or mail it. Please be sure to let me know that your letter is for publication, as we don't publish letters without permission.

The more submissions we receive, the more frequently we can publish The Quest. Thanks for your help.

We would like to thank Gerald Nadler and David Gilbreth for their generous contributions to the Gilbreth Network. They have been loyal supporters over the years and their continued support is greatly appreciated. Thanks!

We frequently get requests for ways to located a particular Gilbreth related book. While we have discussed tips and sources before, it might be time to put together a guide of ways to get these, sometimes, hard to find volumes.

Likely, the first place most of us check is our local library. However, just searching their catalog, can lead to disappointing results. But, have you tried "Inter-Library Loans"? You can make a request, either at the library or possibly even through the library's Internet web site. Just have as much information about the title, author, publisher and date of publication. Some of this information is on our web site, or you can search the Library of Congress' web site, which is a good source of catalog information.

Don't overlook your local college or university library. Many libraries offer book loan privileges to local residents. If you can't take the book out, most of them will issue a pass so you can use the books at the library. Check your state operated colleges first.

Buying Books: Rummaging through used bookstores can become addictive, for a book lover; however, I have found looking for any of the original Gilbreth books is a daunting task. While it's always fun to scan the shelves, realizing any fruits of your efforts are indeed few and far between.

You can realize a bit more success, in your search, thanks to our Internet age. There are many used book web sites, where you can do searches either by title or author. These sites contain databases, from used book dealers throughout the country and the world. Depending on the site, you can either buy a book directly from the web site or you will be directed to the book dealers' web site or e-mail address. However, you should be aware that the prices of books can vary widely, sometimes even for the same volume/printing. This is particularly true for Gilbreth related books, where I have seen old copies of Field System (for example), listed at anywhere from $50.00 to $1,500. It just depends on the dealer.

Another Internet resource is the auction web sites. By far, the hands-down leader is E-Bay. Again, prices vary widely, and you have to be careful not to get caught up in the frequent bidding frenzy that can drive prices up above going market prices. Here, it is important to have at least a rough idea of market prices.

And yet another fruit of the computer age has been E-Books, or more simply put, books published in the form of computer files. While there are many new books in this format, thanks to the efforts of organizations like Project Gutenberg, thousands of public domain books are available.

As we have noted before, this has inspired us, at the Gilbreth Network, to begin to offer Gilbreth books in this fashion. We currently have electronic copies of Motion Study and Fatigue Study. A text-only version is available for free, by e-mailing me, or you can get the full book (on MS Word), with pictures and charts, by sending $7.00 for a CD ($10.00 for international requests).

If you have a request for the next book we make available, please let me know. It has to be one published prior to 1928, due to copyright restrictions.

Editor's Note: The following article was submitted by Jay D. Novak. He has used modern computer technology to build on the work of Frank Gilbreth and August Dvorak; to reduce the fatigue associated with typing----a problem which continues to plague us.

We greatly appreciate Mr. Novak's contribution, however, The Gilbreth Network and David S. Ferguson are not endorsing this or any software. Users of any software should always take proper precautions.

Thanks for the interesting contribution.

Every year American business spends more than a trillion dollars paying people for the time they spend working at keyboards.

My name is Jay D. Novak and I am a software engineer and developer living in Toronto, Canada. I hold a degree in Computer Science from the University of Toronto and have spent most of my working career developing and conducting training courses.

I distribute JDN Speed Typing which is free software enabling people to cut their typing time by ten percent after training for ten minutes and twenty-five percent after two hours. Ultimately, you can boost your speed and productivity by a factor of five or six. You can read all about it at and download the software and training and try it for yourself.

Fifteen years ago I wrote some tools to analyze English text for frequently occurring words and phrases and was dumbstruck by the huge inconsistency in the way we use keyboards to produce text compared to the nature of the text we produce. For the past fifteen years, I have been training people to reduce their keystrokes and the associated strain injuries. A fortunate side effect of reducing keystrokes is cutting keyboarding time which is, of course, equivalent to boosting speed and productivity.

I am indebted to the work of Frank and Lillian Gilbreth & August Dvorak. There is little doubt the Dvorak design is superior to QWERTY. But there are techniques available today that were just not available to the Gilbreths or Professor Dvorak.

The principle technique is this: Instead of typing a single letter at a time, we can produce entire words and phrases with a single stroke. To illustrate the power of this technique, consider the following:

The word "the" is the most time consuming word in the entire English language. Typically, it comprises five percent of all our keystrokes. For every eight hours we spend typing, we spend fully half an hour typing this one word. By producing this word with a single stroke, you can save almost 30 minutes out of every eight hours and boost your productivity by almost five percent. This one technique takes only a few minutes to learn but can potentially save you thousands of hours over a working lifetime.

I have always found the most interesting (and most unfortunate) aspect of Professor Dvorak's life to be the fact that the world failed to adopt his design.

"I'm tired of trying to do something worthwhile for the human race. They simply don't want to change!" -- August Dvorak

I hope to continue the work to change the way the world keyboards. Given the experience of the Gilbreths and Professor Dvorak, I will not be so brash as to predict success. But I hope to learn from their work and make some progress.

It is my hope that distributing the software for free may eliminate the viscous circle faced by Professor Dvorak. Too few keyboards were available to interest people to change and too few people were trained on his keyboard to interest manufacturers to change. I'm not a wealthy philanthropist and I certainly hope to make some money from my work.

But the most likely road to success involves making the software free for most people and dead simple to learn and use. There are several reasons for this and you may read more about that at

I would very much appreciate any help in getting the word out about my free software and any suggestions you may have about how to publicize it. You may reach me at

Jay JDN, Toronto

We need your assistance. If any of our members have been in contact with Mr. Perkins, within the last year, would you please contact us. He formally resided in Jacksonville, Florida. We know that he lived in Wisconsin, but that address is no longer valid. We would appreciate any information you may have.

One of the more frequent requests we receive is for information on how the Gilbreths taught their children Morse code. Those seeking this information have asked about mnemonic symbols, shortcuts, etc. The answer, well, we'll save that for a bit.

Frank and Lillian Gilbreth taught their children a wide array of skills and subjects. They believed that there was more to learning than the "three Rs." Morse Code was likely considered a valuable "language" since it was only a few years, prior to them starting their lessons, that the newspapers were full of stories of the Titanic sinking and the use of Morse Code to send their distress signals (legend has it that the Titanic was the first ship to use the new distress code: SOS).

Decades ago, ham radio operators, using Morse code, were the only link with Alaska, after their devastating earthquake; a scenario repeated many times. Or, who can forget the many times Morse code signals saved the day in films.

Today, sadly, Morse code is becoming a lost art. The military no longer teaches it and Morse is no longer a requirement to earn a ham radio license. The reasoning being that we have so many sophisticated forms of communication, it has out-lived its purpose. To this, I would say, "never say never." Morse Code still lends itself to communicating with sound or light pulses. Also, the narrow bandwidth of its carrier wave signal, over the radio, still will communicate long distances, when other forms of radio are rendered useless.

For whatever reason, the Gilbreths felt that Morse Code was a useful skill to learn. Frank devised a system of teaching Morse Code, to occupy the children, during their summer months on Nantucket. The "secret" to Frank's teaching technique was actually quite simple.

First, as we know, he would paint Morse Code messages on the walls and ceilings of The Shoe---more specifically, the lighthouse where there children stayed. This was an excellent visual method, where the children could see the coded message as they were getting ready for bed or as they awoke in the morning. Also, the use of coded messages made learning much more interesting than simply memorizing code for each letter.

But the real secret to the Gilbreth children learning Morse Code was simple bribery. The first child to figure out a message would get a candy bar or other reward. Then, a new message would be written---sometimes the message would tell the hiding place of the reward.

Now, I know there are those who will shrink in horror, that Frank Gilbreth bribed his children to learn. "Why, they should learn for the pure pleasure of learning." I can hear some say. Sounds good in books, but in reality, especially with young children, setting short-term goals and rewards, is a time-proven method of teaching. Besides, remember, the Morse Code lessons were held during their summer visits to Nantucket. Even now, I can think of dozens of more interesting things to do at the shore, so the candy bars just made things more interesting.

Indeed, educators as well as businesses would do well to remember the value of simple, short-term goals and rewards. All too often, we expect students and workers to focus on long-term or distant rewards, as motivation: "work hard and you can go to college---or----you can get that promotion." It's simply much easier to stay on track, when there are some interim rewards/recognitions along the way. The Gilbreths, wisely, recognized this both with their children and in dealing with their clients.

Dr. Robert "Bud" Banis is an Assoc. Prof. at the University of Missouri-St. Louis and has an interest in the Gilbreth books and methods. You can reach him at or view his web site at .

Mary Helen Collei, of Columbus, OH, is interested in the Gilbreths' home management and teaching methods, for math, Morse code, astronomy, etc. You can reach her at:

Kirk Forney, PE, PMP, is a consultant, from Placentia, CA. He is interested in the Gilbreths' work, as it applies to project management and lean manufacturing. You can reach him at: .

Kate Gladstone specializes in "handwriting repair" and became interested in the Gilbreths based on how their work relates to her own efforts. You can reach her at or visit her web site at .

Roseann Kuhns is a doctoral student, under Dr. Jerry Davis, at Auburn University. Her interest is in work measurement and she is currently writing her dissertation. You can reach her at

Mark Lefcowitz, of Alexandria, VA, has his own company which is involved in applying efficiency standards in both large IT and non-IT environments.

Brian Lindenmeyer has asked to be added to our membership, to substitute for his father, Carl Lindenmeyer, who passed away last September. The Lindenmeyers operate the C-Four Company, of Pendleton, SC. C-Four produces programs/software for Time, Motion & Time Studies. You can contact him at or visit their web site at .

Another Breakthrough, in Breakthrough Thinking:

Dr. Gerald Nadler (a long-time friend and charter member of the Gilbreth Network), along with Tom Dworetzky, have written the latest version of the groundbreaking book Breakthrough Thinking. The new book is entitled Ask the Right Questions. It incorporates the original concepts along with improvements made over the years. The system of problem solving has been changed to allow it to be easier to explain and understand.

You can order it in e-book, paperback or hardcover editions through: or . You can also check with local book retailers or on-line dealers.

Congratulations to Dr. Nadler for yet another fine book.

Re-Print Available:

Thanks to Bill Doran, a visitor to our web site, we can tell you that Frank Gilbreth's book, Bricklaying System has been re-published and is available in paperback, for $19.95, through a company called Elibron. You can order a copy at their web site: This is indeed wonderful news, as copies of this book have been very hard to find.

The Continuing Saga of Gilbreth Construction:

Mike DeBlasio, a long-time member of the Network, is a retired contractor, with a great interest in the history of construction. He has sent us a photocopy a booklet called Modern Methods of Feed Concrete Mixers by Frank B. Gilbreth (Dated 1901). What makes this interesting is that this is listed as "Advance Sheets of Book Entitled:". This is the first I've ever seen this booklet, even at the Gilbreth archives, at Purdue. It is a fascinating look at the use of the Gilbreth Gravity Concrete Mixer. It is unknown if it was ever published as a "book", but it most certainly was a promotional booklet for the Gilbreth Mixer. Thanks so much to Mike for sharing it with us.

The Quest is written and published by:

David Ferguson, CSP
113 Kay Ct.
Cloverdale, CA 95425

Copyright 2003