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Rubik and the Cube - Rubik's Cube

Rubik became the first self-made millionaire from the communist block.

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Hungarian educator Erno Rubik holds up his invention, the Rubik's cube, December 1981.

Hungarian educator Erno Rubik holds up his invention, the Rubik's cube, December 1981.

Photo by Archive Photos/Getty Images
Sales of the Rubik's Cube were sluggish until Hungarian businessman Tibor Laczi discovered the Cube. While having a coffee, he spied a waiter playing with the toy. Laczi an amateur mathematician was impressed. The next day he went to the state trading company, Konsumex, and asked permission to sell the Cube in the West.

Tibor Laczi on Meeting Erno Rubik

''When Rubik first walked into the room I felt like giving him some money,'' he says. ''He looked like a beggar. He was terribly dressed, and he had a cheap Hungarian cigarette hanging out of his mouth. But I knew I had a genius on my hands. I told him we could sell millions.'' - Tibor Laczi on meeting Erno Rubik

Nuremberg Toy Fair

Laczi proceeded to demonstrate the Cube at the Nuremberg toy fair, but not as an official exhibitor. Laczi walked around the fair playing with a Cube and managed to meet British toy expert Tom Kremer. Kremer thought Rubik's Cube was the wonder of the world. He later arranged an order for a million Cubes with Ideal Toy.

What's in a Name

Rubik's Cube was first called the Magic Cube (Buvuos Kocka) in Hungary. The puzzle had not been patented internationally within a year of the original patent. Patent law then prevented the possibility of an international patent. Ideal Toy wanted at least a recognizable name to copyright; of course, that arrangement put Rubik in the spotlight because the Magic Cube was renamed after its inventor.

Red Millionaire

Erno Rubik became the first self-made millionaire from the communist block. The eighties and Rubik's Cube went well together. Cubic Rubes (the name of cube fans) formed clubs to play and study solutions. A sixteen-year-old Vietnamese high school student from Los Angeles, Minh Thai won the world championship in Budapest (June 1982) by unscrambling a Cube in 22.95 seconds. The unofficial speed records may be ten seconds or less. Human experts now solve the puzzle in 24-28 moves on a regular basis.

Erno Rubik has established a foundation to help promising inventors in Hungary. He also runs the Rubik Studio, which employs a dozen people to design furniture and toys. Rubik has produced several other toys, including Rubik's Snake. He has plans to start designing computer games and continues to develop his theories on geometric structures. Seven Towns Ltd. currently holds the rights to Rubik's Cube.

Thank-you Rubik!

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