Tuesday, July 13, 2010

July 13

Happy Birthday to Professor Erno Rubik, architectural engineer and creator of the world's most popular toy. He invented the Magic Cube in 1974, but when the Ideal Toy Company signed for international distribution rights, they changed the name to Rubik's Cube in 1980 (which is why they're celebrating a 30th anniversary so much later.)

The Cube was a phenomenon in the 80's, and it's still a global best-seller, probably because solving the puzzle remains shorthand for 'smarter than the average bear'.
Speedcubing competitions gather fans to see who can solve the Cube fastest (current record: 7.08 seconds); then blindfolded, or underwater, or with their feet, or blindfolded with a spotter...

Professor Rubik was able to start his own company, desigining more toys, as well as furniture (would you buy a Rubik's Couch? Would you ever be able to open and close a Rubik's Futon?) The international Rubik's site offers official 3X3 cubes, plus 4X4 cubes, 5X5 cubes, customization and lubrication kits (if your stickers are wearing out, for example), build-your-own 3X3 cubes... I also found a website that not only found various permutations of Cubes available, but such tchotchkes as cufflinks and coffeetables.
I wasn't a Cube-ist in the 80's; I preferred a Rubik's snake (officially, the 'Rubik's Twist'). My family had two: the classic blue/white and a sturdier orange/yellow one. While it has nowhere near the Cube levels of fandom, it's still a reliable seller. It's like a self-contained sculpture piece:

A Rubik's toy that I haven't seen in years is Rubik's Magic, which was several flat panels that connected together like snakes and ladders. It was almost as addictive, but not as durable.

But it's the Cube that makes him a star among contemporary Gepettos. I've read that he doesn't like doing interviews, and I could understand that if every other person I met asked me 'so, how do you do it?' In fact, if I was him, I'd have a basket of Cubes on the ready and make a reporter solve a cube for she could ask another question. I mean, it's just a toy; how hard can it be?

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