|Fascinating facts about the invention of
Rubik's Cube by Erno Rubik in 1974.
|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.
|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
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
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
of Toys from
The Great Idea Finder
ON THE BOOKSHELF:
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.
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:
The only official site.
(URL: www.rubiks.com )
Directions for solving Rubik's Cube
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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
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
- 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.
- Rubiks 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
Sources in BOLD Type
page revised December 4, 2006.
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