Erno Rubik was an Architecture Professor at the Budapest School of Commercial Art in Hungary – the world, however, knows him as the father of the cube – Rubik’s Cube.
The cube is a six sided object which splits into three rows and three columns, each of which slide up to 360 degrees. Each side of the cube has a certain color but when the cubes rows and columns are twisted or rotated, these colors move to other sides. The object of the game was to twist and rotate the cube until it was a multicolored mess and then figure out a way to methodically return it to its original state. While some younger children were able to determine the solution in mere minutes, in actuality, there were more than 43,252,003,274,489,856,000 possible positions into which the cube could be manipulated.
Originally, Professor Rubik designed the small puzzle as a way of teaching his students about three dimensional objects, but after securing a patent for it in 1975, he began marketing it throughout Hungary, Europe and the United States.When toy manufacturer Ideal Toys contracted with him to produce it in the United States, the cubes sales and popularity skyrocketed. In 1980, the cube sold more than 4.5 million units and sold even more the next year. Over a seven year period, more than 30 million units were sold with pirated versions and several sequels also popping up. As well, as a companion to the puzzle, several books were written to provide hints and solutions to the puzzle – many of which went on to become the biggest sellers ever for their publishing houses.
At it’s peak, the cubes popularity reached incredible and sometimes unhappy proportions. Legends abound that fans became so compulsive that one developed tendinitus in her wrist from struggling with the puzzle and another was divorced by his wife for becoming so infatuated with the device – which she had bought him for Christmas. Finally, around 1982, the cubes popularity finally began to decrease, much because of massive overexposure. Self help books popped up to enable people to kick the cube habit (with titles like How to Live with a Cubaholic and 101 Uses for a Dead Cube.)