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Fascinating facts about the invention of
Rubik's Cube
by Erno Rubik in 1974.
Rubik's Cube
Every invention has an official birth date. For the Cube this date is 1974 when the first working prototype came into being and a patent application was initially drafted. The place was Budapest, the capital of Hungary. The inventor's name is now a household word, Rubik's Cube.

Although 1974 marks the inauguration of the Cube, the processes that led to the invention began a few years earlier. At the time, Erno Rubik was a lecturer at the Department of Interior Design at the Academy of Applied Arts and Crafts in Budapest.

Rubik's Cube
He had a passionate interest in geometry, in the study of 3D forms, in construction and in exploring the hidden possibilities of combination of forms and materials, not just in theory, but also in practice.

In the course of his teaching, Erno Rubik preferred to communicate his ideas by the use of actual models, made from paper, cardboard, wood or plastic, challenging his students to experiment by manipulating clearly constructed and easily interpreted forms. It was the realisation that even the simplest elements, cleverly duplicated and manipulated, yield an abundance of multiple forms that was the first step on the long road that led finally to the Cube.

When the Cube was complete, Erno Rubik demonstrated it to his students and let some of his friends play with it. The effect was instantaneous. Once somebody laid his hands on the Cube it was difficult to get it back! The compulsive interest of friends and students in the Cube caught its creator completely by surprise and it was months before any thought was given to the possibility of producing it on an industrial scale.

During 1978, without any promotion or publicity, the Cube began very slowly to make its way through the hands of fascinated youths into homes, playgrounds and schools. The word of mouth spread and by the beginning of 1979 there were enthusiastic circles of Cube devotees in various parts of Hungary.

Undeterred by the universal rejection, spurred on by his firm belief in the exceptional quality of the toy, Tom Kremer, now armed with a convincing marketing plan, continued his search for a viable partner. After many disappointments, he succeeded in persuading Stewart Sims, Vice President of Marketing of the Ideal Toy Corporation, to come to Hungary, to see with his own eyes the Cube in play. It was now September 1979, by which time the Cube has gained a sufficient degree of popularity to be seen occasionally in the street, on trams, in the cafes, each time in the hand of someone turning and twisting and completely absorbed. After five days of convoluted negotiations between a sceptical American capitalist and an obstinate communist organization largely ignorant of the operation of a free market, with Laczi and Kremer holding desperately the two sides together, an order for one million cubes was signed amidst much handshaking and great relief all round.

The challenge of trying to master the Cube, to be able to restore all of its six sides to the original colours seemed to have a mesmeric effect on an amazing variety of individuals right across age, occupation, wealth and social standing. Grandmothers, bank managers, baseball players, pilots, librarians, park attendants could be seen working away at their Cubes at any hour of the day. In restaurants the Cube would feature on tables side by side with salt and pepper pots, handled with greater frequency than either. But it was the young, schoolboys and students, who were in the vanguard of what was fast becoming a massive movement that swept through the world. They were the ones who proved most adept at solving the puzzle, they were the ones to form special cubists clubs, to organise competitions, to suffer from Rubik's wrist playing continuously for hours and days with an object that simply could not put down.

But now, in its second incarnation, the Cube is part of a family of puzzles and games which bear the stamp of the genius who created the greatest three dimensional puzzle the world has ever known.

Erno Rubik has not changed much over the years. Working closely with Seven Towns, he is still deeply engaged in creating new games and puzzles, and remains one of the principal beneficiaries of what proved to be a spectacularly successful invention.

LEARN MORE

RELATED INFORMATION:
History of Toys   from The Great Idea Finder

ON THE BOOKSHELF:
Adventures in Group Theory: Rubik's Cube, Merlin's Machine, and Other Mathematical Toys
by David Joyner / Paperback: 264 pages / Johns Hopkins Univ Pr; (June 2002)

The text develops the basics of group theory and creates group-theoretical models of Rubik's Cube-like puzzles. Earlier chapters will be accessible to high school students with a strong mathematics background; later chapters are more advanced.

The Cube
by Annie Gottlieb / Paperback: 208 pages / HarperSanFrancisco; 1st edition (September 8, 1995)
The Cube is an imagination game--and more--that holds a secret you are dared not to reveal. Last seen making the rounds in the coffeehouses of Eastern Europe, Inside these pages, the game is revealed along with intriguing stories of others who have played the Cube--including such celebrities as Gloria Steinem, Willem Dafoe, Erica Jong, and Judy Collins. Not Rubik's Cube.

ON THE WEB:
Rubik's Today
The only official site.
(URL: www.rubiks.com )

MATH IS FUN!
Directions for solving Rubik's Cube
(URL: jjorg.chem.unc.edu/personal/monroe/cube/rubik.html)
Winning Moves
We are a leading maker of classic card games, world renown puzzles, children's fun & learning games and popular adult party games. Since our first year of operation in 1995, we have forged a close relationship with the world's second largest toy company, Hasbro, Inc., owner of Parker Brothers and Milton Bradley games. As a result, many long-lived Parker Brothers and Milton Bradley games are now made exclusively by Winning Moves Games!
(URL: www.winning-moves.com/)
MagicCube4D
This is a fully functional four-dimensional analog of Rubik's cube. For comparison, the normal 3D Rubik's Cube has only 43 252 0032 274 489 856 000 unique positions which is still huge. On the other hand, the 4D cube has more potential positions than the total number of atoms in the universe!
(URL: www.superliminal.com/cube/cube.htm)

DID YOU KNOW?

  • Although possible the most original of all invented puzzles, the Cube was not born in a vacuum. Its classical antecedents are great puzzles in their own right. The Tangram, originating from ancient China, merely consists of 5 triangles, a square and a parallelogram, yet so rich in interesting figures. The pentomino, invented by Solomon W Golomb, has 12 different elements, each one made up of five squares joined together, displaying all the possible configurations of the five combined squares. Pentomino poses fascinating geometric problems of constructing various rectangles. Piet Hein's Soma Cube is, in a sense, a three dimensional version of Pentominos. It resembles Rubik's Cube both in shape and in the large number of ways its seven elements can be assembled into a 3x3x3 cube. Finally, there is Sam Loyd's well known 15 puzzle, with it's numbered tiles locked together yet moving separately, so that by pushing them about they can be set in sequential order and scrambled at will. Viewing these puzzles places Rubik's Cube in a context and highlights just what a breakthrough creations the Cube really is.
  • After winning the highest prize for outstanding inventions in Hungary, in 1980 the Cube won top toy awards in Germany, France, Britain and the U.S. by 1981 it entered as an exhibit the hallowed halls of the New York Museum of Modern Art. The Cube achieved such a universal presence and penetrated so deeply the fabric of our society that "Rubik's Cube", by 1982 a household term, became part of the Oxford English Dictionary.
  • Interestingly, the legal defense of the Cube was never based on the original patent that applied to Hungary only. It was the "Rubik" trademark, Erno Rubik's copyright in the object itself and the "passing off" laws which secured, and continues to these days to secure adequate protection of the Cube against unauthorised copies in all countries throughout the world.
  • Rubik’s Cube® is the incredibly addictive, multi-dimensional challenge that has fascinated puzzle fans around the world since 1980. With "43 Quintillion" possible moves and only "ONE" solution... nearly one in every five people in the world has twisted, jumbled and enjoyed this immensly popular puzzle.
Reference Sources in BOLD Type This page revised December 4, 2006.
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