The Magic Cube was invented by the reclusive Hungarian professor of architecture and sculpture, Ernö Rubik, in 1974. His intention was to design a cube and solve the structural problem of moving the parts independently without the entire cube mechanism falling apart.
Rubik didn’t realize he had created a puzzle until the first time he scrambled his new Cube and tried to put it back together in the original position. He named his invention the Magic Cube and received a Hungarian patent for it in 1975. His Belgian patent, issued in 1981, has the description “Jouet Logique Spatial” (Spatial Logical Toy). Today, many consider the internal design of the cube a greater achievement than the puzzle itself. Each of the rows or columns of blocks move independently of each other and also easily come apart if desired. Rubik’s novel idea of the rounded interlocking construction of the blocks was the key that kept the cube together and the basis for his first patent.
The classic Cube has six faces, each composed of nine smaller cubes of the same color, usually red, white, blue, orange, green, and yellow. Rubik’s ingenius pivot mechanism allows each face to rotate independently, thereby mixing the colors on the faces. To solve the puzzle, each face of the cube must be returned to a solid color.
When desperation finally sets in, it is a simple process to re-set a Cube by taking it apart and reassembling it in a solved state. The original (3x3x3) cube has eight corners and twelve edges and, by flipping the component cubes within, this allows the possibility of 43,252,003,274,489,856,000 permutations! Forty-three quintillion!
Featured as a toy puzzle at various international toy shows in 1980, the Cube—now renamed Rubik’s Cube® by Ideal Toy Company—rocked to stardom and has become the most popular toy in history, with over 375 million sold.
Over the years, Speedcubing, the practice of trying to solve a Rubik’s Cube in the shortest possible time, has become popular. The current world record on a 3x3x3 Cube is held by Feliks Zemdegs for the time of 5.66 seconds at the Melbourne Winter Open in 2011.