History of the Cubicle

We ran a Web poll on the CertMag Web site not too long ago that asked what the biggest drawback of the IT profession was. The choices given were all the ones that you would’ve expected: offshore outsourcing, lack of respect from non-technical co-workers, geek stereotypes. In hindsight, I wish we’d included the option “cubicle life.” IT pros of all specialties and stations can partake in the loathing when it comes to these abominations unto humanity.


Where did cubicles come from? Surprisingly, not from a sociopathic misanthrope or an S&M freak, but from the director of research of a home furnishings company. Robert Probst, who invented the cubicle in 1968, christened his creation the “Action Office.” In all fairness to him, Probst didn’t envision his concept as the cornerstone of a working environment more suited for insects than human beings. His years of observing how people work led him to conclude that they would be more productive if they had space to spread out all of the documents they needed in their immediate vicinity.


Therefore, his initial design had a variety of surfaces, many of which were placed at different levels. People sitting at the desk of Probst’s Action Office could find documents very quickly. Of course, he couldn’t have anticipated that the personal computer and the Web would make this sort of array completely unnecessary. Nor could he predict how the corporate world would butcher his brainchild.


Two factors influenced the shrinking and spartanization of the…


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