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The Rubik’s Cube delights – and frustrates – America (1981)

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The Rubik’s Cube was invented in 1974 by Hungarian professor of architecture Erno Rubik, but didn’t really make a splash until he licensed the Ideal Toy Corp to produce and sell the toy wholesale in 1980. It immediately became a worldwide sensation, winning awards and bringing hours of entertainment — and frustration — to people all over the world for the last 40 years. With over 350 million cubes sold worldwide, Rubik’s creation is often considered to be the best-selling toy of all time.

Rubik's_Cube

Rubik’s Cube frustrations heat up summer

Lawrence Journal World / July 21, 1981

New York — The summer’s most popular cubes are not the colorless frozen water kind that do nothing but melt lazily in chilled glasses filled with tea, Perrier or Kir. No: This summer’s big cube is a maddening Mondrian-colored plastic puzzle, composed of 27 subcubes that rotate on horizontal and vertical axes. It’s called Rubik’s Cube, after Erno Rubik, a teacher of architecture and design at the School for Commercial Artists in Budapest.

The object of his addictive invention is to scramble the solid-color sides by twisting and turning the rows of cubes on their inner axes and eventually return them to their original places. New Yorkers are currently twisting and turning Rubik’s creation on streets, stoops, subways, buses, benches and beaches — and in bars, beds and, no doubt, hot tubs.

And the first regional competition for the title of United States Rubik’s Cube champion will be held Saturday in Burlington, Mass, near Boston.

The first person to try her skill publicly with the cube in America was Zsa Zsa Gabor, who was hired last year by the Ideal Toy Corp, which manufactures the cube in this country, to promote the creation of her fellow Hungarian. The Rubik-Gabor association was short-lived, however, and no one seems to recall whether or not Miss Gabor ever solved the puzzle — there are more than 43 quintillion possible positions — but there are no lack of others now trying.

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According to Ideal, more than 10 million cubes have been sold worldwide since May 1980. Not all purchasers become as violent as the man who flung his cube from the window of a Fifth Avenue bus one scorching day last week, shouting “The hell with it. It’s impossible.” Actually, it’s not.

Benji Fisher, 18, a student at the Bronx High School of Science, says he can solve the puzzle in two and a half minutes. Fisher, one of eight United States representatives in the recent International Mathematical Olympiad, does not recommend haphazard twisting and turning.

“If you make one move every second, you’ll probably get the cube back to the way it was in a few billion years,” he explains. Fisher, who says he did not use formal mathematics in reaching his solution, offers this advice: “Don’t be afraid to mess up something that looks good; find simple maneuvers that leave most of it unchanged; remember precisely what those moves do.”

Finding Rubik’s Cube can be puzzle in itself

by Ray Hemman (Hutchinson News / December 24, 1981)

Finding an authentic Rubik’s Cube for sale in Southwest Kansas this Christmas appears to be as challenging as the puzzle itself, a survey of several stores shows.

The object of the six-sided puzzle is to get each side to be one of six colors by rotating the cubes within it.

“We had some (authentic Rubik’s Cubes) very early in the season,” a spokesman for Taylor’s Toys in Great Bend said. “We sold out of those very quickly. We got some imitation puzzles like it in, and they go just about as fast. The demand is very strong for them.”

vintage-rubiks-cube-packageA spokesman for a Hutchinson store said he could have sold four times as many cubes if he had had them.

“We probably sold 100, but could have sold another 400,” Otasco’s Gary Lanning said. “Being a seasonal item, we got them back in September, and have been sold out for a long time.”

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Lanning attributed part of the cube’s popularity to advertising. The store’s two most popular items this Christmas have been a hand-held vacuum cleaner called the Dust-Buster and the Rubik’s Cube.

“The Dust-Buster’s been out for four or five years,” Lanning said. “But when the advertising hit the market this year, it went out quickly. Everybody and his dog needs a Dust-Buster or a Rubik’s Cube.”

At Garden City, one store had about a dozen imitations left when it closed Tuesday evening.

“We can only get a copy of the real thing,” Millie Zimmerman, assistant manager at Garden City’s TG&Y, said. “We got 148 of them in last Thursday, and sold them out really quick. They are definitely one of our hottest sellers.”

At Garden City’s Books, Etc., the similar situation existed. “The original Rubik’s Cube is hard to come by,” a spokesman for Books, Etc. said. “We’ve had a lot of demand, even for the off-brands. We sell out as fast as we get them, even.”

Similar reports were received from store owners in Liberal and Dodge City.

Reasons why the Rubik’s Cube continues to fascinate people are even difficult to come by. “I really don’t know why people are so fascinated by them,” Dr Donald Brada, psychiatrist of the Mental Health Institute, said. “It has been a curious phenomenon, as is the same with the computer games.”

Dr Brada said he does not think people have a subconscious need for frustration.

“After the initial challenge, people seem to stick with it for some time as long as they see some progress. They’ll get the first side right and then go on to the second side. People just enjoy the challenge of it — it tempts their intellect.”

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