Not that it really went away for some of us, but if you have ever played with a Rubik’s cube in your younger years, then you will be glad to know that it is once again making waves as one of the most popular hobbies. Invented by a Hungarian architecture professor way back in 1974, it was a common game played by kids before the internet generation. It subtly lost its popularity with the emergence of various digital games, but it is also with the help of the internet that the Rubik’s cube, or the speed cube as it is sometimes called, is making a comeback.
Peak, and sudden drop, of the cube’s popularity
When the Rubik’s cube was first released to the public in the early 80s, it was an instant hit, reaching even hundreds of millions in sales. It was the most popular toy in that era that there was even a worldwide championship game organized.
- 1982 – First Rubik’s Cube World Championship
- Minh Thai – overall champion from the United States who solved the cube puzzle in only 23 seconds.
- Jessica Fridrich – hailing from Czechoslovakia, she was the only woman to compete in the championship.
The challenge of solving a Rubik’s Cube puzzle proved to be one of the main reasons why its popularity later has worn off. Apart from the 1982 championship, there was no other news of a succeeding worldwide championship that actually transpired.
Thanks to the Internet
After a decade, Jessica Fridrich uploaded a technique on the Internet on how to solve the puzzle of the Rubik’s cube. By the early 2000s, more and more people are again getting their hands on the Rubik’s Cube. This is also the time when an online forum for people into solving the Rubik’s Cube was started by Ron van Bruchem. He is the same person who coined the term “speedcubing”, which is now very popular among the new generation of people engrossed in the Rubik’s Cube puzzle.
Following the 1982 world championship game, it was only in 2003 when another one was held, now with even more categories in the competition. Following this event, competitive speedcubing eventually became a legit sport, with Ron van Bruchem co-founding the World Cube Association.
The Modern Cube
While it is true that the speed cubes of today were derived from the concept of the Rubik’s Cube, it can be deemed that the Rubik’s Cube is actually phased out. Modern speed cubes now have advanced features such as magnets that allow the player to smoothly turn the squares.
Two of the main characteristics of modern speed cubes are fast-turning or smooth-turning. The best speed cube is designed to have a balance between both characteristics. Fast-turning speed cubes have the least friction between the layers, requiring almost no effort needed in turning the squares. However, without any friction, the player may struggle with control. Smooth-turning speed cubes on the other have indeed had friction that allows for control, while still supporting a fluid motion. The drawback, however, is that this friction is the same cause of time constraints.
The modern speed cube can still encounter mishaps such as catching and lockups. Catching usually occurs when a corner piece of the cube latches on a centerpiece of the cube. On the other hand, lockups happen when you totally cannot twist the layers of the cube any longer. While catch-ups still can happen to the modern speed cubes because of poor interior design, lockups seem to be a thing of the past, especially for the 3×3 cubes. Lockups can still happen on cubes with higher dimensions such as 4×4 or 5×5 because of their more complex interiors.
Variants of the Modern Cube
The Rubik’s Cube definitely has come a long way from a 3×3 cube. Nowadays, there are cubes with smaller dimensions, which is the 2x2x2, and there are cubes with greater dimensions such as the 4x4x4, 5x5x5, 6x6x6 and even 7x7x7 with definitely more challenging algorithms to figure out and solve. There is even a megaminx, pyraminx, skewb and square-1 variations of the traditional Rubik’s cube, not to mention a magic clock. Megaminx has the shape of a dodecahedron while pyraminx takes the shape of a regular tetrahedron.
You may miss the games from the pre-internet era, but these games, such as the Rubik’s cube, is never lost. Thanks to the internet and the vast amount of information it holds, the speed cube is again reaching the peak of its popularity. Likewise, the games that prove to be nostalgic for your childhood are also being reinvented, thanks to the advancements in modern technology.