Wired.com's 20 Years Ago, Steve Jobs Built the ‘Coolest Computer Ever.’ It Bombed references:

“We have made the coolest computer ever,” he told me. “I guess I’ll just show it to you.”

He yanked off the fabric, exposing an 8-inch stump of transparent plastic with a block of electronics suspended inside. It looked less like a computer than a toaster born from an immaculate conception between Philip K. Dick and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. (But the fingerprints were, of course, Jony Ive’s.) Alongside it were two speakers encased in Christmas-ornament-sized, glasslike spheres.

“The Cube,” Jobs said, in a stage whisper, hardly containing his excitement.)

Wikipedia's Ludwig Mies van der Rohe says:

Mies strove toward an architecture with a minimal framework of structural order balanced against the implied freedom of unobstructed free-flowing open space. He called his buildings "skin and bones" architecture. He sought an objective approach that would guide the creative process of architectural design, but was always concerned with expressing the spirit of the modern era. He is often associated with his fondness for the aphorisms, "less is more" and "God is in the details".

and that certainly makes sense in the context of Apple's approach.

But I don't get the reference to the writer Philip K. Dick at all. What might that author’s contribution to the design of a toaster look like? Was he ever involved in set design or cover design for his books or real-world design, or is it more likely that Wired just threw in a popular SciFi author's name to match the stature of the "less is more" architect?

  • 3
    I would guess that "Philip K. Dick" in this context means more like "whoever did the set design for a movie or movies based on PKD's work" — but that could mean Blade Runner, Minority Report, Total Recall (Schwarzenegger or Farrell), Amazon's Man in the High Castle, or even A Scanner Darkly, depending on the reporter's cultural reference points. (Möoz's answer points to Syd Mead/_Blade Runner_ as the reference point.) Jul 28, 2020 at 14:27
  • 2
    Thanks for the question. I read the article yesterday and the reference made zero sense to me. Presumably the author meant Syd Mead
    – Mohirl
    Jul 28, 2020 at 16:34
  • 1
    The premise in the title is false, please change it to "What is this reference to the [design] conception of Philip K. Dick?" Of course it's about Syd Mead's visual work together with Ridley Scott. Not PKD.
    – smci
    Jul 29, 2020 at 1:49
  • @smci The current title "Was Philip K. Dick ever involved in design?" is exactly the question to which I wanted an answer and the linked article is simply something that made me wonder if he might be. I'm always uncomfortable being told "you shouldn't want to know the answer to your question." It would have been great to find out that he was! If you are really certain that "No he wasn't." is the answer and that nobody could possible add an additional answer with evidence, then SE gives you the power to make the edit yourself and take responsibility for that.
    – uhoh
    Jul 29, 2020 at 2:39
  • 1
    uhoh: ok sure, it's generally preferable for the OP to make their own title edit, so yes wait a while, then edit the title to update the premise. It's an interesting question, but I think the answer was well-known 40 years ago... ditto HR Giger for Alien's visual styling.
    – smci
    Jul 29, 2020 at 3:58

1 Answer 1


It's speaking to the general aesthetic of the two.

So basically, the article is trying to point out that The Cube looks like it's something that could have been inspired by PKD (and Ludwig), a toaster perhaps.

You hear similar comparisons often; "it looks the the brainchild of x and y" or "it looks like x and y had a baby".

In your own excerpt from Ludwig's Wikipedia it mentions his style is:

minimal framework of structural order balanced against the implied freedom of unobstructed free-flowing open space

Which is a very similar style to the Brutalist Architecture envisaged in PKD's works (which was actually stylised by late artist Syd Mead), and in turn to The Cube.

Large concrete skyscraper towering over hm the city with LAPD on the side; the top is wider than the rest of the building with several landing pads on it and a small air traffic control tower with red lights

Now check out The Cube in comparison to the Syd Mead Cube (created in honour of Syd Mead by Kenneth R. Johnson):

Apple’s Cube; a transparent case surrounds a silver box with the Apple logo on it and a socket in the topSyd Mead Cube; a shiny silver square structure with the front corner rounded with horizontal orange lights running up it; there is a cable plugged into the side of it

They are of similar aesthetics in my opinion.

It's most likely as you thought, a pop-culture reference; but to be fair to the commentator, he did at least know and understand the style of both PKD's worlds and Ludwig's and was able to compare it to The Cube. Wired's Steven Levy could have said it was a brainchild of Ludwig and Syd Mear, but that would have gone over most people's heads (but obviously not mine, my head is too big for things to go over).

  • 2
    And you are way to fast . Clip from Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) "Nothing goes over my head my reflexes are too fast" Jul 28, 2020 at 14:25
  • 1
    @DragandDrop Yes, and I too am extremely humble!
    – Möoz
    Jul 28, 2020 at 22:57
  • 1
    "very similar style to the Brutalist Architecture envisaged in PKD's works" Did PKD's written works have descriptions of brutalist architecture, or are you talking about the cinematic adaptations of his works?
    – Hypnosifl
    Jul 29, 2020 at 5:33
  • @Hypnosifl Cinematic, which is why I pointed out that it was actually stylised by Syd Mear.
    – Möoz
    Jul 29, 2020 at 22:54

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.