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Erno Rubik invented the rubik’s cube
Erno Rubik, (born July 13, 1944, Budapest, Hung.), inventor of Rubik’s Cube, a popular toy of the 1980s. Rubik’s Cube consists of 26 small cubes that rotate on a central axis; nine coloured cube faces, in three rows of three each, form each side of the cube. When the cube is twisted out of its original arrangement, the player must then return it to the original configuration, one among 43 quintillion possible ones.
The son of a poet mother and a glider-manufacturer father, Rubik studied sculpture at the Technical University in Budapest and architecture at the Academy of Applied Arts and Design, also in Budapest. While a professor of design at the academy, he pursued his hobby of building geometric models. One of these was a prototype of his cube, made of 27 wooden blocks; it took Rubik a month to solve the problem of the cube. It proved a useful tool for teaching algebraic group theory, and in late 1977 Konsumex, Hungary’s state trading company, began marketing it.
By 1980 Rubik’s Cube was marketed throughout the world, and over 100 million authorized units, with an estimated 50 million unauthorized imitations, were sold, mostly during its subsequent three years of popularity. Approximately 50 books were published describing how to solve the puzzle of Rubik’s Cube. Following his cube’s popularity, Rubik opened a studio to develop designs in 1984; among its products was another popular puzzle toy, Rubik’s Magic.
He Invented the Rubik’s Cube. He’s Still Learning From It.
The first person to solve a Rubik’s Cube spent a month struggling to unscramble it.
It was the puzzle’s creator, an unassuming Hungarian architecture professor named Erno Rubik. When he invented the cube in 1974, he wasn’t sure it could ever be solved. Mathematicians later calculated that there are 43,252,003,274,489,856,000 ways to arrange the squares, but just one of those combinations is correct.
When Rubik finally did it, after weeks of frustration, he was overcome by “a great sense of accomplishment and utter relief.” Looking back, he realizes the new generation of “speedcubers” — Yusheng Du of China set the world record of 3.47 seconds in 2018 — might not be impressed.
“But, remember,” Rubik writes in his new book, “Cubed,” “this had never been done before.”
In the nearly five decades since, the Rubik’s Cube has become one of the most enduring, beguiling, maddening and absorbing puzzles ever created. More than 350 million cubes have sold globally; if you include knockoffs, the number is far higher. They captivate computer programmers, philosophers and artists. Hundreds of books, promising speed-solving strategies, analyzing cube design principles or exploring their philosophical significance, have been published. The cube came to embody “much more than just a puzzle,” the cognitive scientist Douglas Hofstadter wrote in 1981. “It is an ingenious mechanical invention, a pastime, a learning tool, a source of metaphors, an inspiration.”
Rubik, 76, is lively and animated, gesturing with his glasses and bouncing on the couch, running his hands through his hair so that it stands up in a gray tuft, giving him the look of a startled bird. He speaks formally and gives long, elaborate, philosophical answers, frequently trailing off with the phrase “and so on and so forth” when circling the end of a point. and He sat in his living room, in a home he designed himself, in front of a bookshelf full of science fiction titles — his favorites include works by Isaac Asimov and the Polish writer Stanisław Lem.
He speaks about the cube as if it’s his child. “I’m very close to the cube. The cube was growing up next to me and right now, it’s middle-aged, so I know a lot about it,” he said.
“Here’s one,” Rubik said, retrieving it from the coffee table, then fiddling with it absent-mindedly for the next hour or so as we spoke.
Erno Rubik was born on July 13, 1944, about a month after D-Day, in the basement of a Budapest hospital that had become an air-raid shelter. His father was an engineer who designed aerial gliders.
As a boy, Rubik loved to draw, paint and sculpt. He studied architecture at the Budapest University of Technology, then studied at the College of Applied Arts. He became obsessed with geometric patterns. As a professor, he taught a class called descriptive geometry, which involved teaching students to use two-dimensional images to represent three-dimensional shapes and problems. It was an odd and esoteric field, but it prepared him to develop the cube.
In the spring of 1974, when he was 29, Rubik was in his bedroom at his mother’s apartment, tinkering. He describes his room as resembling the inside of a child’s pocket, with crayons, string, sticks, springs and scraps of paper scattered across every surface. It was also full of cubes he made, out of paper and wood.
Many iterations later, Rubik figured out the unique design that allowed him to build something paradoxical: a solid, static object that is also fluid. After he gave his wooden cube an initial twist, he decided to add color to the squares to make their movement visible. He painted the faces of the squares yellow, blue, red, orange, green and white. also He gave it a twist, then another turn, then another, and kept twisting until he realized he might not be able to restore it to its original state.
He was lost in a colorful maze, and had no clue how to navigate it. “There was no way back,” he writes.
After the cube became a global phenomenon, there would be erroneous accounts of Rubik’s creative process. Reports described how he secluded himself and worked on the cube day and night for weeks. In reality, he went to work, saw friends, and worked on solving the cube in his spare time, for fun.
After he cracked it, Rubik submitted an application at the Hungarian Patent Office for a “three-dimensional logical toy.” A manufacturer of chess sets and plastic toys made 5,000 copies. In 1977, Rubik’s “Buvös Kocka,” or “Magic Cube,” debuted in Hungarian toy shops. Two years later, 300,000 cubes had sold in Hungary.
Rubik got a contract at an American company, Ideal Toy, which wanted one million cubes to sell overseas. In 1980, Ideal Toy brought Rubik to New York to a toy fair. He wasn’t the most charismatic salesman — a shy architecture professor with a then-limited command of English — but the company needed someone to show that the puzzle was solvable.
Sales exploded. In three years, Ideal sold 100 million Rubik’s Cubes. Guides to solving the cube shot up the best-seller lists. “There’s a sense in which the cube is very, very simple — it’s only got six sides, six colors,” said Steve Patterson, a philosopher and author of “Square One: The Foundations of Knowledge,” who has written about the cube as an embodiment of paradoxes. “In a very short period of time, it becomes unbelievably complex.”
At first, Rubik didn’t have a salary from the toy company, and for a while, he saw little of the royalties. He lived on his professor’s salary of $200 a month.
He was unnerved by the attention. “I’m not the person who loves to be in the spotlight and so on and so forth,” he said. “That kind of success is like a fever, and high fever can be very dangerous. It’s not reality.”
Rumors began to spread that he was the richest man in Hungary, or that he had lost all his money to unscrupulous sidekicks. (Neither was true). He started to feel trapped by his creation.
“The cube loves attention; I don’t. He is eager to interact with everyone; I sometimes find this a bit difficult. He’s quite ambitious; I am less so,” Rubik writes.
Almost as quickly as the craze started, it sputtered out. Cheaply made counterfeits flooded the market, and demand fizzled. In 1986, The New York Times published a deflating article that bordered on an obituary, calling the cube “a bright meteor that burned out.”
Rubik started his own design studio in Hungary and began to work on new projects and revive abandoned ones, including puzzles called the Snake and Rubik’s Tangle.