Once businesses saw how much they could save in both furniture costs and square footage, it wasn't long before this experiment became the standard. It took a couple decades before these cubes stopped being the hallowed symbol of industrial modernity, and became the butt of jokes and the symbol of all that is petty, uninspiring and dehumanizing in corporate life. [source]
In 2006, Fortune ran an article titled "Cubicles: The Great Mistake", and pop culture hasn't been any less critical with Dilbert and Office Space being prime examples.
What's so bad about them? Personally, I think it derives from their cheapness - they weren't designed to last... thus, the employee who is stationed in one of these things also feels cheap and temporary.
Am I glamorizing the pre-cube office? Could pre-cube offices also look uninviting and drab? Yes and yes. But there's no denying the cube has earned this bad reputation honestly. I'm not claiming smoke filled shag carpeted 70s offices are the pinnacle in industrial design. What I am saying is that the global shift to cube farms was not an improvement. I am in agreement with Fortune. They were a big mistake.