People Who Make Terrible Things – Birth of the Cubicle

Life is full of awful, terrible things. Things worse than the atomic bomb, like the McRib. Most people believe these things exist as punishment from the gods for not creating/ritually sacrificing enough children. But as unbelievable as it may seem, some of the most horrible stuff ever was actually invented. Intentionally. By people. And though you’ve never heard of these people before, it’s always been your life’s mission to punch their face in the balls.

Robert Propst – Inventor of the Cubicle

Like a Movie Scientist, Robert Propst began with the best of intentions. In the early 60’s, Propst, a young and talented designer who helped create such life saving devices as heart pumps, sought to improve the modern workplace. His intended solution: to promote the productivity, privacy, and health of workers everywhere. Also like a Movie Scientist, Propst’s creation became a monster.

Unlike a movie scientist, he didn’t invent a cure for cancer that turned people into zombies. Instead he invented a soul-crushing box that…turned people into zombies.

Propst originally called his invention the Action Office which, although sounds either like a super cool workplace where the staplers and paperclips are replaced with roundhouse kicks and ninja stars or a porn-based version of The Office, doesn’t change the fact that it’s just a cube where dreams go to die. With the Action Office, Propst conceived a highly modifiable workspace, the core to the design lying in its moveable walls. As Propst saw it, the moveable walls provided the option to open up the space, spurring creativity and blood circulation, even if that meant an inefficient use of area. However; corporate executives saw a different promise in the moveable walls: a way to squeeze as many workers into as suffocating an area as possible.

Propst‘s dream became a nightmare. Cubicle farms grew across the nation, packing workers in like rats and effectively doing the opposite of everything Propst intended.

Propst wasn’t an evil genius set out to devour of millions of salary slaves for decades to come. Before his death in 2000, Propst lamented his invention, calling its success “monolithic insanity.” The inventor of the cubicle also became its biggest hater.

That doesn’t mean we still can’t dig up his corpse and pop him a good one right in his no-longer living face.


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