iPhoneOgraphy – 27 Nov 2016 (Day 332/366)
Rubik’s Cube is a 3-D combination puzzle invented in 1974 by Hungarian sculptor and professor of architecture Ernö Rubik. Originally called the Magic Cube, the puzzle was licensed by Rubik to be sold by Ideal Toy Corp in 1980 via businessman Tibor Laczi and Seven Towns founder Tom Kremer, and won the German Game of the Year special award for Best Puzzle that year. As of January 2009, 350 million cubes had been sold worldwide making it the world’s top-selling puzzle game. It is widely considered to be the world’s best-selling toy.
In a classic Rubik’s Cube, each of the six faces is covered by nine stickers, each of one of six solid colours: white, red, blue, orange, green, and yellow. In currently sold models, white is opposite yellow, blue is opposite green, and orange is opposite red, and the red, white and blue are arranged in that order in a clockwise arrangement. On early cubes, the position of the colours varied from cube to cube. An internal pivot mechanism enables each face to turn independently, thus mixing up the colours. For the puzzle to be solved, each face must be returned to have only one colour. Similar puzzles have now been produced with various numbers of sides, dimensions, and stickers, not all of them by Rubik.
Although the Rubik’s Cube reached its height of mainstream popularity in the 1980s, it is still widely known and used. Many speed cubers continue to practice it and other twisty puzzles and compete for the fastest times in various categories. Since 2003, The World Cube Association, the Rubik’s Cube’s international governing body, has organised competitions worldwide and kept the official world records.
The Cube was unveiled by Ideal Toys at the International Toy Fair of London in January 1980. Initially sales were modest, but Ideal began a television advertising campaign in the middle of the year which it supplemented with newspaper adverts. At the end of 1980 Rubik’s Cube won a German Game of the Year special award, and won similar awards for best toy in the UK, France, and the USA. By 1981 Rubik’s Cube had become a craze, and it is estimated that in the period from 1980 to 1983 around 200 million Rubik’s Cubes were sold worldwide. In March 1981 the first speed cubing championship organised by the Guinness Book of World Records was held in Munich, and a Rubik’s Cube was depicted on the front cover of Scientific American that same month. In June 1981 The Washington Post reported that the Rubik’s Cube is “a puzzle that’s moving like fast food right now … this year’s Hoola Hoop or Bongo Board”, and by September 1981 New Scientist noted that the cube had “captivated the attention of children of ages from 7 to 70 all over the world this summer.”
As most people could only solve one or two sides, numerous books were published including David Singmaster’s Notes on Rubik’s “Magic Cube” (1980) and Patrick Bossert’s You Can Do the Cube (1981). At one stage in 1981 three of the top ten best selling books in the USA were books on solving the Rubik’s Cube, and the best-selling book of 1981 was James G. Nourse’s The Simple Solution to Rubik’s Cube which sold over 6 million copies. In 1981 the Museum of Modern Art in New York exhibited a Rubik’s Cube, and at the 1982 World’s Fair in Knoxville, Tennessee a six-foot Cube was put on display. ABC Television even developed a cartoon show called Rubik, the Amazing Cube. In June 1982 the First Rubik’s Cube World Championship took place in Budapest, and would become the only competition recognized as official until the championship was revived in 2003.
In October 1982 The New York Times reported that sales had fallen and that “the craze has died”, and by 1983 it was clear that sales had plummeted. However, in some Communist countries, such as China and Russia, the craze had started later and demand was still high because of a shortage of Cubes.
Rubik’s Cubes continued to be marketed and sold throughout the 1980s and 90s, but it wasn’t until the early 2000s that interest in the Cube began increasing again. In the USA sales doubled between 2001 and 2003, and The Boston Globe remarked that it was “becoming cool to own a Cube again”. The 2003 World Rubik’s Games Championship was the first speedcubing tournament since 1982. It was held in Toronto and was attended by 83 participants. The tournament lead to the formation of the World Cube Association in 2004. Annual sales of Rubik branded cubes were said to have reached 15 million worldwide in 2008. Part of the new appeal was ascribed to the advent of internet video sites which allowed fans to share their solving strategies. Following the expiration of Rubik’s patent in 2000, other brands of cubes appeared, especially from Chinese companies. Many of these Chinese branded cubes have been engineered for speed and are favoured by speed cubers.