The Rubik’s Cube was invented in 1974 by Hungarian ErnÅ‘ Rubik, who was both a sculptor and a professor of architecture, and appeared in Hungarian toy shops in 1977, named the Magic Cube. It wasn’t until 1980 when it was signed by Ideal Toys that the cube hit the world’s attention and established itself as one of the most popular toys in the world, probably due mostly to the fact that many of the estimated 300 million cubes sold were cheap imitation models.
In itself the cube sounds like a simple enough concept. You have a cube that has each of it’s faces covered in a different colour. Each face is formed of a 3×3 grid. The cube can be rotated in vertical or horizontal slices, which allows each face to become a mixture of different colours. After liberally mixing up all the pieces by repeated twisting of different slices of the cube, it is up to the player to put the cube back in order again, a task that is far easier said than done.
The craze for the Rubik’s cube meant it became a common sight to see people young and old twisting the cube this way and that, gradually getting more and more frustrated that they couldn’t solve the damn thing. To get one side completed was generally fairly easy but proceeding on from there was much more difficult. Several cube experts cashed in by releasing their cube solutions in book form, and I remember owning one called You Can Do The Cube, written by an annoyingly clever 12 year old named Patrick Bossert. It was a really good book though, with easy to follow instructions that allowed you to solve the cube in no time.
If you couldn’t be bothered to solve the cube yourself however (with or without assistance) then your other option was to take a screwdriver to the thing. By inserting a screwdriver between two of the pieces it was possible to prise the cube apart and reassemble it with all the faces correct. This was interesting to do just from the point of view of seeing how the cube actually worked at the mechanical level. Another method of cheating was to peel the coloured stickers off the pieces and reapply them, but you ran the risk of messing up the cube completely if you weren’t careful, ending up with two pieces that had the same combination of coloured stickers on them.
The Rubik’s Cube has spawned many variations, including a mini key-ring sized version, a spherical version (basically the same as the normal 3x3x3 version, but with the corners rounded off), and even more complicated 4x4x4 and 5x5x5 versions! A simpler 2x2x2 version also exists, which has been turned into various branded puzzles. I received one for Christmas the other year that was a 3D model of Homer Simpson’s head, for example. The Cube spawned other creations such as the Rubik’s Twist (or Snake as I knew it as a kid), which was a long chain of triangular pieces that could be twisted to form interesting looking shapes. This was less of a puzzle and more of an idle plaything though. To see the entire range available today then visit Rubik’s Official Online Site, and to pick up up an official classic cube pay a visit to online toy store Seven Again.