At one point in my early post college years I found myself jobless in the period running up to Christmas. I decided that a job in a Department store would be a perfect way to help soak up a few weeks before starting a new job and some of my old Student debt. I worked for the Army & Navy store in Guilford (Surrey, UK). I was in my early 20’s but have – an annoyance when seeking service at a bar – always looked young for my age. So it seemed right for me to agree to work in the Toy Department.
A new range of toys had been launched that year on the U.K. market by Bandai called “Transformers” which, as you’ll know from the later films, were vehicles that through some manipulation – that got easier the more worn the toy became – transformed into a robot. They sold really well, I like to think due my abilities at demonstration and pitching, but it became the second highest selling toy that the Toy Department had ever seen. Perhaps predictably, the highest selling toy – released a few years earlier and a complete phenominon – was the Rubik’s Cube.
Invented in 1974 by Hungarian sculptor and Architectural Professor, Ernő Rubik, in 1980 Rubik licensed his Cube to the Ideal Toy Corporation, a Ma & Pa US company founded in 1938 and then famous in our house as the manufacturer of the hit game Mouse Trap – first launched in 1963.
Rubric’s Cube, was a massive success from its launch in 1980 and, as of 2009, it had sold over 350 million cubes, worldwide, thereby claiming the title of the world’s top-selling game.
The classic Rubik’s Cube comprises six faces divided into nine squares and each covered by a sticker, of one of six colours: white, red, blue, orange, green, and yellow. By virtue of its internal mechanism each face could be turned independently, allowing the colours to be mixed and presenting the player with possibility of solving the puzzle if all six faces are returned to their original one colour.
I suspect for many of us, despite the awe we have for this iconic game and its underlying mechanics, solving the puzzle was always frustrating. I have seen recording breaking attempts that have shown competitors solving the puzzle in a matter of a few seconds. There are “cheat” sites on the internet explaining that you too can solve Rubik’s Cube just by “learning six algorithms”! For me, there have been times when confounded by this multicoloured cube, with perhaps only two or, maybe, three squares bearing the same colour on the same face, that the temptation to smash it with a claw hammer has been overwhelming!