The Rubik's Cube is a 3-D combination puzzle invented in 1974 by Hungarian sculptor and professor of architecture Ernő 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. Rubik's Cube won the 1980 German Game of the Year special award for Best Puzzle. As of January 2009, 350 million cubes had been sold worldwide, making it the world's bestselling puzzle game and bestselling toy.
On the original classic Rubik's Cube, each of the six faces was covered by nine stickers, each of one of six solid colors: white, red, blue, orange, green, and yellow. An internal pivot mechanism enables each face to turn independently, thus mixing up the colors. For the puzzle to be solved, each face must be returned to have only one color. Similar puzzles have now been produced with various numbers of sides, dimensions, and stickers, not all of them by Rubik. This clip is a brief history of the Rubik's cube with Ernő Rubik's background and how the cube came to be:
The first test batches of the Magic Cube were produced in late 1977 and released in Budapest toy shops. Magic Cube was held together with interlocking plastic pieces that prevented the puzzle being easily pulled apart, unlike the magnets in Nichols's design. With Ernő Rubik's permission, businessman Tibor Laczi took a Cube to Germany's Nuremberg Toy Fair in February 1979 in an attempt to popularize it. It was noticed by Seven Towns founder Tom Kremer, and they signed a deal with Ideal Toys in September 1979 to release the Magic Cube worldwide. Ideal wanted at least a recognizable name to trademark; that arrangement put Rubik in the spotlight because the Magic Cube was renamed after its inventor in 1980. The puzzle made its international debut at the toy fairs of London, Paris, Nuremberg, and New York in January and February 1980.
After its international debut, the progress of the Cube towards the toy shop shelves of the West was briefly halted so that it could be manufactured to Western safety and packaging specifications. A lighter Cube was produced, and Ideal decided to rename it. "The Gordian Knot" and "Inca Gold" were considered, but the company finally decided on "Rubik's Cube", and the first batch was exported from Hungary in May 1980.
After the first batches of Rubik's Cubes were released in May 1980, initial sales were modest, but Ideal began a television advertising campaign in the middle of the year which it supplemented with newspaper advertisements. 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 US. 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. Here is a Rubik's Cube television commercial from 1980:
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 the USSR, the craze had started later and demand was still high because of a shortage of Cubes.
In March 1981, a "speedcubing" championship organized 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 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." This clip describes the global impact of the Rubik's cube that has led to ongoing speedcubing championships:
As most people could solve only 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 US were books on solving 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.
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