Almost everyone in the world knows the Rubik’s Cube. It has reached other parts of the world apart from Europe, where people grew to like it a lot. Let’s see who the inventor of the “Magic Cube” is since, in Hungary, the cube was distributed by this name.
Ernő Rubik Jr. was born in Budapest, on the 13. July 1944. His father, Ernő Rubik was a mechanical engineer and an inventor, although not in the same field as his son. The older Ernő Rubik founded the Aero-Ever Ltd. in 1936 so that he could start building aeroplanes. Many licenses and developments were made thanks to him in the sailing and the light aircraft fields. He was very successful: he designed 32 aeroplanes and – after 1960 – he had more than a 1000 operating planes. We should also mention the mother of Ernő Rubik Jr., Magdolna Szántó, poet.
Ernő Rubik Jr. must have had a fantastic childhood in this family that was closely linked to both sciences and literature. We know the outcome: he developed a well-known logical game. Therefore, the boy must have been influenced by his father, as he was a great teacher, with the help of whom he could improve and learn more about the world of technology. This is how Ernő became a student of the Secondary School of Fine Arts and Handicraft in Budapest, where among other things, he studied painting, making gold articles, and sculpturing. He graduated from the University of Technology and Economics in Budapest as an architect in 1967. Later, he studied sculpturing and interior design at the College of Handicraft in Budapest.
Ernő Rubik has always found studying to be of great importance, and he mentions it as a defining experience:
“These schools allowed me to obtain the knowledge I needed for various subjects whilst helping me master art skills that required guidance from my mentors, a great deal of practice as well as diligence.”
Ernő Rubik has taught architecture at the College of Handicraft in Budapest, first as a professor’s assistant, later as a senior lecturer and finally as an associate professor. The professor designed geometric models at the Academy, one of which was the well-known Rubik’s Cube. The prototype consisted of 27 wooden blocks and – interestingly – Ernő needed more than a month to figure out how to solve it. Then he showed the cube, which he carved and drilled on his own, to his class.
It was a great success in the class, and he realised instantly that this shape is rather easy to produce. This way, it could be popular amongst young people as an entertaining game. Ernő knew very well how to patent his invention, as he had seen it done by his father. In 1974, he patented his invention as a spatial logical toy, he just needed to find the right factory that would produce the toy in Hungary. However, the leaders of the factories did not think it was a great idea, so the first samples were produced by a company that made tiny plastic chess pieces.
Many realised that the “Magic Cube” could be a useful tool in teaching the algebraic group theory, so the Konsumex factory started distributing the “Magic Cube” in late 1977. They exhibited the cube at the Toy Fair of Nuremberg as well. A few pieces that were sold in Nuremberg even made it to the US, where lots of mathematicians found the logical toy compelling.
The “Magic Cube” was first produced in the US by order of Ideal Toys. A businessman with Transylvanian origins who was living in London at the time managed to sign a long-term contract to distribute the cube. Therefore, the way until the mass production was long indeed but the moment it was on the shelves, it became a huge success. The cube was voted Best Game of the Year at numerous competitions and thanks to those awards, it was already on its way to becoming a hit. In 1980, it became available everywhere in the world and millions of cubes were sold worldwide.
More than 100 million original cubes, as well as 50 million fakes, were sold in such a short period, which proves how successful it was. To this day, more than 350 million of Rubik’s Cubes were sold. There are numerous competitions along with records, connected to solving the cube.
After all this, it is very surprising to me that only a few know who the inventor of the Rubik’s Cube is. I was chatting with an Italian friend of mine, who is barely in his forties and my son was playing with the cube as we talked, trying to complete the second face. Then I mentioned what a wonderful invention it was and how intriguing it was that it is still as popular as 40 years ago when it was first released. I proudly added that its inventor, Ernő Rubik is Hungarian!
Let’s see what other toys he invented! As we know, he was very talented when it came to logical games. After the release of the Rubik’s Cube in 1975, he created a game called Snake in 1977, and the Magic Squares in 1985. The Rubik’s Watch, the Rubik’s Domino, the Sudoku Cube and in 2009, the Rubik’s Orbit followed.
Thank you for the fantastic experience provided by the thought-provoking games! They represent a priceless value to us and our children.
Several championships have been organised so far, but since 2003, the Rubik’s Cube World Championships take place every other year. The 40. Anniversary was celebrated globally in 2014. Ernő Rubik was awarded many famous trophies, among others, the Kossuth-Prize and the Artist of The Nation Award.
He founded his own company in 1983, offering self-designed toys and furniture. From 1987 he worked as a senior lecturer, he was the president of the Hungarian Engineering Academy and was voted later honorary president. He founded the Rubik International Fund, which supports talented students in the technical and the handicraft fields.
Ernő Rubik is still working to this day, as he manages his own company, the Rubik Studios, whilst teaching at the Moholy-Nagy Art University and developing game software.
Ernő Rubik, inventor, sculptor, architect, interior designer, designer, game creator, professor, father of four and grandfather. I can only imagine, how great it must have been for his children, playing with the brand-new, unique toys made by their father.
The world would be a poorer place without his fantastic inventions, I am very grateful for having been able to play with his toys and therefore having been motivated to think logically.
Today, as it is his birthday, let us wish him good health, and a day full of new experiences and love, in my name as well as in the name of other supporters who love his work!