The Rubik’s Cube magic started in 1974 when Ernő Rubik unintentionally created it. The rest is just a history. And some stamps…
Ernő Rubik was born in Budapest, Hungary on 13 July 1944. He worked at the Department of Interior Design at the Academy of Applied Arts and Crafts in Budapest and was 30 years old at the moment he invented the Cube. The idea was to create an object that could help him teach students, especially the dynamics of 3D objects. He wasn’t even aware that he created a puzzle game until it was finished and until he shuffled the Cube. Shuffling was not a problem, but returning the Cube to the original state was a challenge. Rubik spent well over one month to get the solution for his problem. And this problem is still present these days. For some, the challenge is even to solve the Cube while for others the real challenge is to solve the Cube in the least possible amount of time.
Ernő hasn’t stopped there. After the success of the Cube he continued working on similar inventions, so besides the Rubik’s Cube, we also have Rubik’s Magic, Rubik’s Magic: Master Edition and Rubik’s Snake. None of the gained popularity of the original Cube. The reason is not so much these inventions were not so cool. The Cube simply was first and it is still a best-selling toy ever with more than 350 million cubes were sold so far.
About the Cube
The Cube is the 3D puzzle game. As other cubes, it has six square faces/sides. In the original, and the most popular (3x3x3), edition each side has nine tiles. Therefore, each Cube has a central element and 26 mini-cubes called “cubies” or “cubelets”. We can rotate a set of cubes around the central piece and thus change the state of the Cube. When the Cube is solved, each side contains only tiles of the same color. Colors on the original Cube are: white, yellow, green, red, blue and orange.
There are numerous variants of the Cube produced since that time. The most common changes are changes in colors and motifs on the sides and changing the number of tiles so you could easily find 13x13x13 cubes or Sudoku cubes these days.
Mathematics behind the Cube
I’ve already mentioned, it’s a puzzle game. And as each other puzzle game, it has its’ own rules on how to be solved. There is even the move notation we’ll use to represent moves and series of moves that change Cube from one state into another.
The 3x3x3 Cube might look simple because it’s small, it can fit in your hand and I guess the first thought is probably “OK, this can’t be so complicated”. Then you try it 😊 Cube can be in 1 of 43,252,003,274,489,856,000 states. You need to use the series of moves to get the Cube into the “solved” state (obviously there is only 1 such state).
I won’t go with a number of states for the dissembled cubes or cubes with more tiles. In short, more tiles, more fun 😊
How popular was the Cube?
The production started in Hungary in 1977 and it was first named Bűvös kocka (Magic Cube). That was also the year when the first Cube was sold in the Budapest toy shop. With the Rubik’s permission, the Cube was presented on many shows in the West (Nuremberg. London, Paris, New York) in 1979 and 1980. It soon won titles of the game of the year in Germany, France, UK and USA and was extremely popular these years. Of course, it became also very popular in the East, especially in China and USSR and Yugoslavia (I still have my example). That popularity led sometimes to the Cube shortages.
Needless to say, that there was a number of books written related to the Cube and how to solve it.
In March 1981 the first speedcubing championship was held in Munich. The goal is to solve the Cube as quickly as possible. The number of competitions was held after that. One of them was the World Rubik’s Cube Championship on 5 June 1982 (it was also the first annual international championship) and the stamp below was issued to commemorate that event. The stamp was issued on 4 June 1982 and the denomination is 2 Forints (Ft, HUF). It’s important to note that the winner of that competition was a 16-year-old Minh Thai from the USA with the time 22.95 seconds. That’s pretty slow compared to today’s standards, which are around 5.5 seconds (current record is 5.25 seconds) but still, his name is written in the history of cubing.
Hungary – 1982
commemorating the World Rubik’s Cube Championship
held in Budapest, Hungary, on 5 June 1982
I’ll use this occasion to show that not only humans were involved in solving Rubik’s Cube. On 16 November 1991, Lesotho issued a series of Disney characters playing games stamps with one of them including motif of the frustrated Donald trying to solve the Rubik’s Cube. The denomination of this stamp is 3 Maloti (L for singular (loti), M for plural (maloti), LSL).
Lesotho – 1991 – part of the series
There are still (and maybe more than ever before) many competitions worldwide today, so let’s take a look at the list of a few upcoming from the World Cube Association page.
Some additional fun facts
Around 6% of world population can solve Rubik’s Cube. And some of them can solve it even blindfolded, seeing only the starting position. Some people solve it using other body parts like feet or even nipples. There was even the guy who jumped from the plane and managed to solve the Cube before opening his parachute.
There are smaller versions of Rubik’s Cube (smallest of them are 3D printed) and there are some really huge with weight over 500 kg. There is even Rubik’s Cube that includes diamonds.
All kinds of motifs could be found on the sides of Rubik’s Cube, including musicians and characters like Super Mario.
No matter how shuffled the Cube can look, it can be always solved in 20 moves or less.
People use cubes for art also. A number of mosaics were created using a large number of Cubes.
If somebody calls you “cubaholic” that should make you think of putting the Cube aside and start dealing with real-life problems.
There are a number of robots that are designed to solve the Rubik’s Cube fast and they are even more successful than best human solvers (record is around 3.5. seconds at this time).
And few words from Ernő
“I did not plan to make the Cube.”
“We turn the Cube and it twists us.”
“A good puzzle, it’s a fair thing. Nobody is lying. It’s very clear, and the problem depends just on you.”
“The problems of puzzles are very near the problems of life.”
“Our whole life is solving puzzles.”
“If you are curious, you’ll find the puzzles around you. If you are determined, you will solve them.”
“I do not truly consider myself an icon, but the Cube has been quite successful.”
I hope that this reminded those of you who were kids in 1980s on one cool toy from that time. And you can still love it these days. Try it, it still possesses its’ magic these days😊
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