Ernő Rubik

The Rubik’s Cube phenomenon: One for the all-time pop charts

lockTo date, more than 400 million Rubik’s Cubes have been sold around the world. As such, the puzzle game is one of the biggest-selling products in history.

Not bad for a toy which its inventor, Hungarian architect Ernő Rubik, says he didn’t even plan to make.

He was working as a professor of architecture at the Budapest College of Applied Architecture at the time, in 1974, and built the cube with the intention of “searching to find a good task for my students”. 

Ernő Rubik
Ernő Rubik, with some of his phenomenally successful toys. Picture courtesy of

He eventually licensed the “Magic Cube” to US company Ideal Toys in 1979, and the rest is history.

More than 40 years after its original creation, the Rubik’s Cube still sells approximately 500,000 units worldwide each year.

Back when it was first made, Hungary was a Communist nation, located behind the “Iron Curtain”, and according to Rubik, his cube helped bring down the curtain on the old government and usher in capitalism.

Paper and pencil? What are those? 

Professor Rubik made the first example of his cube using wooden blocks and rubber bands. The cube twisted and turned without losing any of the individual interlocking pieces.

Chances are the professor used pencil and paper at some point to sketch out his ideas first, and it’s debatable whether such a toy would be invented in today’s world, with the web and apps being the pastime of the masses today.

Back in the 1980s, the Rubik’s Cube was the most ubiquitous toys around.

After the professor signed a distribution deal, the cube was made of plastic with a little bit of steel at the centre to hold the 26 small component cubes together in one whole Rubik’s Cube.

The colour of the faces on the component cubes were provided by the stick-on squares which many may have taken off and rearranged and pretended to have solved the puzzle. Some may have taken the whole cube apart and re-built it to achieve the same fake glory.

Annual – international – competitions for this pointless activity were officially started in 1982.

Pointless records

virtual factory rubik's cube

The world record is currently believed to be held by Mats Valk, who managed to solve the puzzle in an astonishing 4.74 seconds. (See video above.)

Of course, a robot has been invented to do the same pointless thing, and the current record-holder is a machine which has solved the Rubik’s Cube in 637 thousandths of a second.

Valk, who seems human, has uploaded an interesting video which apparently shows the actual manufacturing of Rubik’s Cubes. It’s perhaps surprising that it seems quite labour-intensive.

In the other video, Jay Procarione uses 3D design application Blender to visualise a robotic factory in which Rubik’s Cubes are made (pictured).