Professor Erno Rubik was once an Architecture Professor at the Budapest School of Commercial Art in Hungary. Now, however, he is far better known as the father of the Rubik’s Cube.
Rubik originally designed the small puzzle as a way of teaching his students about three dimensional objects.
He patented it in 1975 and began marketing it throughout Europe and the USA. When toy manufacturer Ideal contracted it in the US, sales skyrocketed, and in 1980 it sold more than 4.5 million units.
The cube was split into three rows and three columns, each of them able to rotate through 360 degrees.
Each side of the cube was a distinct colour but when the cubes rows and columns were twisted or rotated, the colours moved to other sides. The object of the game was to twist and rotate the cube until it was a multicoloured mess and then try and figure out a way to return it to its original state.
No mean feat, since there were more than 43,252,003,274,489,856,000 possible positions into which the cube could be manipulated!
The cube made its inaugural appearance in the Guinness Book of Records in 1982. At a speed contest in West Germany, Ronald Brinkman and Jury Froschi tied for the world championship, each one solving the cube in a mere 38 seconds.
For many, the simplest solution was to peel each sticker off one-by-one. It was a messy job and often ended in disaster because the coloured squares refused to stick back on. It did make it easier to solve though, as it was now completely black.
The cube sold over 300 million worldwide but Herr Rubik was not satisfied – he tried to introduce the Rubik Snake and a multitude of mathematical problem solving games. Several sequel puzzles and many solution and hint books rapidly appeared on the market. Many of the books became the biggest sellers ever for their publishing houses.