Forty Years of Twisting and Turning
Erno Rubik was a Hungarian architecture professor, who worked at the Budapest College of Applied Arts. He was intrigued by the idea of building something. In 1974, he wanted his students to understand the principles counter-mining three-dimensional design. It led him to create a wooden cube, decorated with colorful stickers on each side. It twisted and turned without falling apart. He called it “Magic Cube” and only later realized that the finished product could also be used as an engaging puzzle solver. He patented the cube to a Hungarian toy manufacturer, which produced and sold the ‘Magic Cube.’
From Hungary, the inventive puzzle game slowly spread through the world. In 1980, a company named ‘Ideal Toys’ imported the cube to United States. It also renamed the cube as “Rubik’s Cube.” By the end of 1982, 100 million Rubik’s cube were sold and for the first time ‘Rubik’s’ championships were held at Budapest. In the same year, Oxford English dictionary entered the definition of the cube. Around that same time, ‘Rubik’s Cube’ faced an early demise, thanks to the rise of video games.
The cube is not some toy that shoots or sings. It isn’t a spinoff of a movie character or a thing that is controlled by batteries or remotes. It just twists and turns to give complex work to our brain. But, the toy sellers of those times must have underestimated the buyers’ intelligence, since it is now eternally present in toy stores and science shops. Even though it have agonized its patrons for the last forty years, the cube has got their unfailing devotion.
Today, on the internet, numerous algorithms, theories and tutorials are available to solve these puzzles. Many people rely on solving the individual layers of the puzzle rather than solving the entire puzzle all at once. Recently, an international team of scientists mashed billions of Cube positions and showed that the Rubik’s Cube puzzle can be solved in 20 moves or less. There is also an international group of Speedcubers, whose members’ sole aim is to repeatedly beat the world Rubik’s Cube solving record. The current record was set by 16 year old Mats Valk of the Netherlands. He solved the cube within a time of just 5.55 seconds. Prior to this record, an Indonesian school boy Fakhri Raihann solved the Cube with his feet in 27.9 seconds. The ‘SpeedCubers’ are also solving the Cube blindfolded and even underwater in a single breath. Erno Rubik now runs his own studio in Budapest inventing and making games, and also helping aspiring Hungarian inventors and designers.
The cube has become as timeless as centuries old board games like chess, backgammon and Go. It is seen as an unavoidable cultural symbol. Numerous characters in TV shows and movies show themselves solving a cube as a symbol of their intelligence. It also teaches us to think about the world of one unit, where we need to go through complex patterns to solve things that on the outset look very simple.