A philosophical design
Hungarians are proud of their reputation as great thinkers
and Erno Rubik is one of them. Inventor of the ubiquitous
Rubik's Cube that has infuriated and driven millions to
madness since its first appearance in 1974, Erno has philosophically
mused, "we turn the cube and it twists us". The
three-dimensional mind-bender came to Rubik on a sunny afternoon
as he lay by the Danube staring at pebbles.
Erno knocked up a prototype and gave it to some of his students
at the Academy of Applied Arts and Crafts in Budapest
where he was a lecturer in the Department of Interior Design.
The students loved it and by 1978 cubes were on the shelves
in toyshops throughout Budapest. Cube mania spread like wild
fire; Hungarians became transfixed and soon the whole world
would want one.
Global sales of this devilish pre-computer games era masterpiece
in 1981 were in the millions and everyone was playing it.
The Rubik's Cube was a global phenomenon that enchanted people
of all ages and backgrounds; clubs were formed, books written,
"Rubik's Wrist" became a common sign of over use.
The cube won awards as a toy, a mathematical problem, and
even as a piece of modern art. It penetrated the collective
psyche so deeply that in the 1980's it has an entry in the
Oxford English Dictionary. Nobody really knows how many cubes
have been sold to date, certainly over 100 million, and still
The classic 'cube is a simple design of 4 by 4 (16) squares
on each side in 6 bright colours. Numerous variants exist
from smaller and larger cubes (the biggest being the more
'professional' and difficult), varying shapes like pyramids
and dodecahedron forms as well as different patterned cubes
like the Harry Potter Rubik's Cube, Homer Simpson's Head and
the highly collectable and improbable 'Hello Kitty' Rubiks.
But nothing says '1982' more than the classic three-by-three
cube, hopelessly abandoned at the back of cupboard, the riddle
unsolved and the coloured stickers removed in a last attempt
to cheat the God of Rubik.
Despite the modern sophistication of computer games, the Rubiks
Cube has survived past the initial phenomena phase and continues
to retain and recruit a loyal fanbase around the world - from
Hungary out to Japan, Brazil and the USA - whole new generations
of fans can be heard clicking, swivelling and cursing around
the little plastic conundrum box.
On June 5 1982 the first World Championships were held in
the Rubik's Cube's hometown, Budapest, at the Vigado Concert
Hall. The 2003 25th Anniversary World Championships in being
held in Toronto. Devotees of the mighty cube will witness
Speed Cubing Champions attempt to solve the riddle in less
than 20 seconds. Amazing.