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History of the Rubik’s Cube (Timeline): 20 Important Moments (From Inception…)

Rubik's cube on the colored background
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I’m sure you’ve seen the famous Rubik’s Cube in almost any toy store. Perhaps you even know how to solve it. Puzzles like the Rubik’s cube are great ways to stimulate your mind and keep you from boredom, but how much do you know about the history surrounding the Rubik’s Cube

Today, we’ll take a look at many remarkable moments in the Rubik’s Cube timeline, from its inception right up until today. The following points are just some of the more notable moments surrounding the history of the Rubik’s Cube. 

The history of the Rubik’s Cube – 20 important moments along the way:

1957 – Larry D. Nichols came up with the precessor of the Rubik’s Cube.

In 1957, Larry D. Nichols conceived an idea of a rotatable 2 x 2 x 2 cube. Nichols’ cube, which consisted of six colors, could rotate in groups of four. Magnets connected his cube.

1972 – The Nichols’ Cube was patented.

It was only in 1972, after many trials, Nichols patented his cube. This cube was patented as a 2 x 2 x 2 cube on April 11, 1972, although there were plans for larger cube versions. The larger version, i.e., a 3 x 3 x 3 cube, was never patented. 

1974 – Ernő Rubik created what he called his ‘Magic Cube.’ 

During the mid-1970s, intending to help his students understand 3D objects, Ernő Rubik stumbled upon his ‘Magic Cube.’ He created a 3 x 3 x 3 wooden cube that could rotate. Rubik shaved down the edges of his cube, and this cube was initially quite big and heavy.

1975 – Rubik patented his ‘Magic Cube.’ 

Rubik only recognized he created a puzzle when he tried to solve it. It took him a month of fiddling with it to realize it was a fascinating puzzle. The Hungarian professor went on to patent his Magic Cube. He received his patent in January of 1975.

1977 – Rubik rolled out test batches of the Magic Cube.

The first batches of the ‘Magic Cube’ became available in toyshops in Budapest. These cubes consisted of interlocking plastic parts that would not easily dissemble. Each of the six faces of the cube had a different color. However, at the time, Rubik did not arrange the colors in a particular order.  

1979 – The cube became famous worldwide. 

Tibor Laczi, a businessman, convinced Rubik to let him take the cube to the Nuremberg Toy Fair in an attempt to popularize the cube. The undertaking was successful as Tim Kremer, founder of Seven Towns, identified the cube’s potential and decided to release it worldwide.

1980 – Magic Cube became Rubik’s Cube. 

Ideal (the company responsible for distributing the cube worldwide) renamed Magic cube to Rubik’s Cube, making it a recognizable trademark and putting Rubik in the spotlight. The Rubik’s Cube then debuted at numerous international toy fairs.

1981 – The Rubik’s Cube craze began. 

Although sales of the cube were initially modest, Ideals widespread television and newspaper ad campaigns saw sales skyrocket. The cube became a craze, winning many “Game of the Year” awards across various countries during this period.

Various solution books were also published and became some of the best sellers at this time. People had developed algorithms that others could use to solve this cube. They wrote books teaching others how to solve the cube quickly. 

1982 – There was a shortage of cubes in some countries.

While the New York times reported a decline in Rubik cube sales, other countries like China and USSR reported a need for stock of the cube as the craze had picked up in those countries a little later.

1983 – Manufacturers sold two hundred million Rubik’s cubes. 

Following Ideals advertising campaigns, sales skyrocketed in 1981 and then plummeted in 1983. By this time, toy stores had sold two hundred million cubes worldwide between 1981 – 1983.

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1985 – Nichols claimed that the Rubik’s cube infringed his copyright. 

With a court hearing in 1985, the U.S. District Court ruled that Rubik had violated Nichols cube, but it was in 1986 when the Court of appeals ruled that only the 2 x 2 x 2 infringed Nichols’ patent and not the Rubik’s 3 x 3 x 3 cube.

1988 – Manufacturers redesigned the cube. 

Earlier models paid no attention to the color scheme and where the colors were on the cube. In 1988, the colors and their placement on the cube were standardized.

The white face of the cube is opposite to the yellow side. The blue opposes the green, and the red is opposite to the orange. The red, white, and blue faces are next to each other in a clockwise direction. The standard placement of colors helps people quickly solve the cube. 

1997 – Jessica Fridrich invented the Fridrich Method to solve the cube. 

In 1997, Jessica Fridrich published her method for solving the Rubik’s cube online. The Fridrich method became famous pretty quickly and is still a favorite method used by speedcubers today. Contestants have set world records using this method. 

2000 – The patent of the Rubik’s cube expired. 

The patent that Rubik had applied for in 1982 had passed. Many other brands of cubes entered the market with designs enhanced to increase rotation speed. Manufacturers also included plastic panels instead of using colored stickers. The stickers peel off or fade, and this variation prevented that. 

2001 – There was a revival of Rubik’s cube. 

Ideal continued to market the cube, but it wasn’t until 2001 when sales doubled in the U.S. Popularity picked up again as people deemed it cool to own a cube.

2003 – Speedcubing tournaments begin. 

Since 1982, contests ceased, but in 2003, the World Rubik’s Games Championship held a tournament in Toronto. The Speedcubing tournament attracted 83 participants from around the globe. 

2004 – Ron van Bruchem and Tyson Mao formed The World Cube Association. 

The World Rubik’s Games Championship held in 2003 led to Ron van Bruchem (from the Netherlands) and Tyson Mao (from the U.S.) forming the World Cubes Association the following year. 

This organization hosts competitions for mechanical puzzles worldwide, the most famous being the Rubik’s cube puzzle. Cubes continued to be popular and reached at least 15 million people by 2008.

2014 – Rubik’s Cube wins a case against a German Toy manufacturer. 

When challenged by a German toy manufacturer, the event was ruled in favor of Rubik’s cube, stating everyone should uphold the Trademarks. Manufacturers were allowed to produce differently shaped puzzles with a similar rotating function. It was at a time like this when companies created puzzles like Skewb, Pyraminx, and Impossiball.

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2016 – Rubik’s cube lost a trademark battle.

In 2006, when Simba Toys first challenged Rubik’s Cube, they assumed a patent and not a trademark should protect the cube. After a ten-year battle, the European Union Court of Justice agreed with Simba Toys, stating the shape of the puzzle was not sufficient to approve trademark protection. 

2020 – Spin Master acquired the Rubik’s Cube brand for $50 million. 

In 2020, Spin Master, a Canadian toymaker, said it would pay $50 million to acquire the Rubik’s Cube brand. The acquisition took place in October 2020. Spin Master said they would continue the puzzle’s legacy. They plan to innovate the Rubik’s portfolio and expand distribution.

Final words

The cube has seen a rise and fall in sales, but the cube and its variations remain a phenomenon. These are just 20 of the more remarkable moments in Rubik’s Cube history. People all over the globe still enjoy learning how to solve this puzzle with many online solutions available at their fingertips.