Saturday, June 03, 2006

Really Menial Jobs

One of my favorite mental pasttimes is to think about ways to automate certain repetitive tasks, I suppose that's why I'm in the industry I'm in, doing the job I'm doing -- automating the transfer of data all over the place. Not the most exciting stuff to write about, exciting to do, but not really good material, so to speak. So, I think about other, more mechanical, automations.

It all started with my favorite Mister Rogers Neighborhood episode as a child. It was the one where he showed us how they make crayons. I was completely enthralled with the way the wax is poured into a mold and then a machine wraps the paper around them and puts them in a box. It was impressive to me that this process could be done completely without human intervention. I also assumed there was a time when this wasn't such an automated process, and people had to do things like stick crayons in a box for a living.

My grandpa worked on the factory line at Ford all his life. After a while, it became clear that he needed to learn automation skills, or he would be phased out. So, he become a robotics tech and learned everything he needed to fix the machines that built the cars, rather than building the cars themselves. So, I come by my interest naturally.

There are a lot of things I buy that I can see how it would have been produced through an automated process of some kind. There is one I was thinking of this morning that I couldn't come up with anything for, however, so I was hoping you could help me. As a kid, I loved the Strawberry Shortcake dolls, and I had most of them. I can see how the little plastic dolls could be made automatically, and how their little clothes could, in many cases be made without human intervention. But how do you get their little clothes on the little dolls? Same goes for Barbies or any other dolls. I hate to think there are people (or even worse, children) whose job it is to put clothes on dolls all day long.


James said...

I was amazed by a machine I saw on the Food Network that actually discerns the difference between good potatos and bad ones as they are being sorted into French fries. How does it know?!?

Btw - Where in the Philippines were you?

Heather said...

We lived in Bario Magsaysay outside of Alaminos in the Pangasinan province. About half-way between Manila and Baguio on the east coast of Luzon island.

And if there are machines that can figure out potato-goodness, maybe there's hope for doll-dressing machines.