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Rubik's Cube: 40 Years Old and Never Meant To Be a Toy 105

Posted by samzenpus
from the don't-peel-the-stickers dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The greatest geek toy ever invented turns 40 today and to celebrate there's an interactive Google Doodle, and the Telegraph has a short history of the toy. 'There are only a handful of toys that last more than a generation. But the Rubik's cube, which celebrates its 40th birthday, now joins the likes of Barbie, Play-Doh, Lego and the Slinky, as one of the great survivors in the toy cupboard. What makes its success all the remarkable is that it did not start out as a toy. The Rubik's cube was invented in 1974 by Erno Rubik, a Hungarian architect, who wanted a working model to help explain three-dimensional geometry.'"
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Rubik's Cube: 40 Years Old and Never Meant To Be a Toy

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  • by stoolpigeon (454276) * <bittercode@gmail> on Monday May 19, 2014 @07:51AM (#47037339) Homepage Journal

    Hajrá Magyarok!

  • by jfdavis668 (1414919) on Monday May 19, 2014 @07:58AM (#47037389)
    Never did learn how to solve it.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      This is easy: remove all the coloured stickers from each cube face, and you get a cube with each face having a uniform colour.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        This is easy: remove all the coloured stickers from each cube face, and you get a cube with each face having a uniform colour.

        I did exactly this when I received my first cube. Still not able to solve it :)

      • by Thanshin (1188877)

        Or the brute force solution. Break it apart and reform it in the correct color order. It leaves less permanent damage than fiddling with the stickers.

        • by OakDragon (885217) on Monday May 19, 2014 @09:19AM (#47037975) Journal
          As a person who was jealous of those that actually could solve it, this was my favorite joke on them:
          1. Take one of their solved cubes.
          2. Break it apart
          3. Put it back, EXCEPT rotating one edge piece so that the colors would not align
          4. Mix it up good
          5. ???
          6. Profit!

          I'm not sure, but I imagined this would make it unsolvable.

          • I'm not sure, but I imagined this would make it unsolvable.

            I can't solve it either, so this is pretty much PIDOOMA, but I believe that you -- WELL, not you or me, but someone -- can rotate any arbitrary piece in any arbitrary direction. So doing this does not prevent the cube from being solved. Would love to see this confirmed or denied for someone who actually knows for sure . . .

            Also, if the thing is 40 years old, that means that having mine for only 34-ish years, I will never set the "longest time to solve a cube" record.

            • by LostOne (51301) on Monday May 19, 2014 @10:40AM (#47038621) Homepage

              If one edge piece is flipped as described, the cube does, in fact, become unsolvable. It is not possible to flip a single edge piece without affecting at least one other piece on the cube.

              • . . . the cube does, in fact, become unsolvable.

                [Mr. Burns Voice]Excellent.[/Mr Burns Voice] You've made at least two guys' day with that piece of info. Heh heh heh.

            • There are quite a few operations that cannot be done:

              - Flipping a single edge piece (you can only flip them in pairs)
              - Twisting a single corner (you can twist one clockwise and another one counterclockwise)
              - Swapping two pieces

              The swapping bit is the easiest to prove mathematically: all you need to know is the difference between odd and even permutations. Imagine for a moment that you can swap any two pieces, for example by taking the puzzle apart. Now for any real permutation (for example a twist, or a rot

          • by datastew (529152)

            I can solve it, and I can say for sure that if you only rotate one edge piece, the whole puzzle will be unsolvable.

            Back in grade school, I used to solve people's cubes for them. When I got to the point where it was solved except for the unsolvable part, it would be obvious what had happened. I would show them where they pieces or stickers had been changed and offer to change it back for them.

            • My old man (retired engineer) is the only person I know who found the algorithim without looking up the answer, took him 3 months (also there was no internet back in 1980). I pulled mine to bits, I was simply fascinated that it could rotate in every direction without the corner bits falling off.
              • The only hard bit is having enough patience and determination to keep trying. It's not exactly rocket science. It may seem that way when you see all those "formulas" on the internet, but anybody with a little bit of intelligence and determination can solve it rather intuitively. It just takes some time to figure it out.

                My dad solved it over the course of a few months. I was still a small kid, 6 years old or so, and wanted him to show me, and unfortunately he finally gave in and showed me a small part. I had

              • by Gibgezr (2025238)

                Myself and a friend also figured it out together, and then wrote down the instructions on a couple of sheets of paper and shared it around my high school. It only took about a week for the two of us to work out a series of processes that would, in the end, solve the cube. Later on, when a book on solving the cube came out, it used almost all the same patterns (although I think it had a couple of optimizations that could combine two patterns into shortcuts). Once you decide that the way to solve the cube is

          • It does make it unsolvable, but anyone who knows what they are doing with a cube can pretty quickly determine that it has been 'hacked' in this way. First thing I do when solving the cube is to check the corners. It's obvious that something is wrong if certain combinations come up. If you do the same kind of thing with one of the middle cubes it's a little less obvious, and is similarly unsolvable.
        • Or the brute force solution. Break it apart and reform it in the correct color order. It leaves less permanent damage than fiddling with the stickers.

          Yeah, I did this too. In fact, the first thing I did was to see if I could take it apart without breaking it. Being able to solve it this way meant that I didn't have to waste time try to solve it the normal way. People considered this method cheating, but I preferred to refer to it as thinking outside of the box.

          Just for fun, I did, much later, solve it the normal way using a strategy guide.. The strategy guide was included in a box lot that my Dad won at an auction.

        • by ncc74656 (45571) *

          Or the brute force solution. Break it apart and reform it in the correct color order.

          This. I noticed that the Google doodle is missing this functionality. :-)

    • by umafuckit (2980809) on Monday May 19, 2014 @08:17AM (#47037523)
      Then learn! RubiksPlace [rubiksplace.com] has one of the better tutorials on the net. Good cubes can be purchased for under $15. Buy one by Dayan, or a similar company. The official Rubik's ones mostly suck. Follow the instructions on the site and you'll have a solve within half an hour. Then you can proceed onto learning and understanding the process. It's rather fun. I've just started and my goal for this year to get a sub one minute solve. I'm busy, so if I can nail that I'll be very happy.
      • by nabsltd (1313397)

        I've just started and my goal for this year to get a sub one minute solve.

        It's been nearly 20 years since I even touched a cube, so I suspect my reactions aren't what they once were. I don't think I could get back to the consistent 1:30 I used to have, with many times under a minute.

        But, it might be fun just to show people I know how to do it.

        • by milkmage (795746)

          there's an app for that.

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

          • by tlhIngan (30335)

            there's an app for that.

            There are plenty of apps for that.

            My favorite is CubeCheater [efaller.com] where you take a photo of each of the faces of the cube and it shows you how to solve it in 20 moves or less.

            Alas, it's no longer available, though I have copies thanks to iTunes backups :). (No, just because an app is gone, doesn't mean you can't still use it as long as you have a copy, through iTunes or otherwise. Apple has not yet activated any functionality to delete or block apps already in users' possession).

      • Then learn! RubiksPlace [rubiksplace.com] has one of the better tutorials on the net. Good cubes can be purchased for under $15. Buy one by Dayan, or a similar company. The official Rubik's ones mostly suck. Follow the instructions on the site and you'll have a solve within half an hour. Then you can proceed onto learning and understanding the process. It's rather fun. I've just started and my goal for this year to get a sub one minute solve. I'm busy, so if I can nail that I'll be very happy.

        Having tried some, I'm willing to state that there is no tutorial in the world that would enable me to solve it, either. The cube is filed in the same folder as juggling, having a baby, and curling up my tongue -- under "stuff I just can't ever do". I tried 13 moves on the google doodle before just angrily clicking all over in frustration to see how high I could drive the counter.

        • I bet you can do it. If the algorithm is clearly described, it's very straightforward. You don't even need to understand what you're doing. The challenging thing is memorising the steps, which of course is only necessary if you choose to make it so. Even pre-school children can learn [youtube.com].
        • by mattack2 (1165421)

          Regular 3 ball juggling is VERY easy.. (even I can do it!) I can do 6 pin passing, barely, but never got past that to any significant degree.. (I guess I can do 2 in one hand well enough that I could probably learn 4 via 2 in each hand quickly.)

          Basically, the most basic juggling is so easy everybody can do it.

      • by ZeroPly (881915)
        This is not "solving" it, it's just following an algorithm which guarantees a solution. It's the equivalent of calculating a binary sum for Nim on each turn and removing the correct number of stones. You don't have to understand anything about Nim, or look more than a move ahead, you just have to mindlessly calculate that sum and remove whatever stones the algorithm tells you to do.

        Truly solving a cube would be working out a plan based on that _particular_ initial combination, rather than something like "mo
        • Not strictly true. There is a family of algorithms that are used to solve the cube. If you follow them, you need to identify the correct ones as you proceed. Not all steps in the process may be needed, depending on the initial state of the cube. A good speed solver learns a large number of algorithms and plans ahead as they solve, merging one algorithm into the other. i.e. they do what you say: work out a plan in advanced based on the initial combination of the cube. The best in the world can solve the cube
      • by Reziac (43301) *

        Alas, I have absolutely no patience with this sort of thing, so it wouldn't matter if I understood the algorithm or not. Conversely, I'll solve the "how much irregularly-shaped crap can you squish into an irregular space" problem by merely applying a quick eyeball.

    • by Nyder (754090)

      Never did learn how to solve it.

      I learned how to solve it via a book in the late 70's and still today I can muscle memory the solution. couldn't tell you how to do that solution, but my hands still know what to do.

    • BTW, I bought a cube. With lots of assistance from the Internet, I was able to solve it. It only took 40 years. Thanks.
  • Did it survive? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by wisnoskij (1206448) on Monday May 19, 2014 @08:08AM (#47037455) Homepage

    You used to see them everywhere, not really the case for the last decade or two.

    You cannot compare the Rubik's cube to Barbie or Play-Doh on that front.

    • You used to see them everywhere, not really the case for the last decade or two.

      You cannot compare the Rubik's cube to Barbie or Play-Doh on that front.

      It's been on a comeback lately. So has Tetris, I think.

      • by PRMan (959735)
        My teenage daughters have several of them and I never bought them for them.
    • by jonwil (467024)

      If the number of videos on YouTube dedicated to something is an indication of how well it has survived, the Rubik's Cube is most definatly a survivor.

      Not to mention the many world records that exist related to the Rubik's Cube (I wonder what the record is for the largest Rubik's Cube ever made and for the smallest ever made)

      • Actually that is an indicator of how cult it is.

        There are loads of things with huge cult following that no longer exist. Based on your logic the most popular song of all time is "Never Gonna Give You Up".
        And the most popular video game console of 2014 is the SNES, because it has the biggest game library.

        • And the most popular video game console of 2014 is the SNES, because it has the biggest game library.

          The SNES doesn't have the largest game library among the game consoles. The PSone has 3 times as many and the PS2 has FIVE times as many.

          • I'd attribute the popularity of the SNES in part to the resurgance of classic titles being released in ways like Nintendo's Virtual Console. In addition, those folks that grew up with the NES/SNES would be hitting their 30's now and may already have that good job and are able to go back and buy some of their childhood from their local used game store. I know I've been doing just that this year.

            To give some numbers to CronoCloud:
            SNES [wikipedia.org] had 784 games.
            Playstation 1 [wikipedia.org] had 2,418 games.
            Playstation 2 [wikipedia.org] had 3,870 g
            • As an asterisk on those numbers: The SNES count doesn't include any of the Japanese releases, while the PS1, PS2, and N64 counts do. The Super Famicom has 1,442 titles, and 231 were released on Satellaview. Eliminate the titles that were common between the NA/PAL list and the Japanese lists, and the count still comes below the PS1 game count (so your point still stands). I just wanted to compare apples to apples.
    • by torsmo (1301691)
      You will soon have super-toys that will last all summer long.
  • by hubie (108345) on Monday May 19, 2014 @09:16AM (#47037959)
    I can't say I think of it as the greatest geek toy. Cool puzzle, but not geek toy. When I think of a great geek toy, I think of something that demonstrates some physical property (like a gyroscope, or one of those glass tubes with a colored liquid that boils when you hold it in your hand), or something like a Mindstorms set where you can explore computing and robotics.
  • The Google Doodle of this tells me to play I must have the latest version of Chrome/Safari/Firefox. However I do have the latest version of Chrome! Version 34.0.1847.137 so it tells me. (At least I think it's the latest version, I've not been able to find anything on Google that tells me what is the official latest version).

    Bah.

    • Works for me with that version.

      Make sure if you're using blocking extensions (Noscript, etc) that they are allowing frames and JS from gstatic.com and google.com.

      Also make sure WebGL is working (I dunno if it uses it or not but it looks 3D) in chrome://gpu/).

  • Too bad you can't peel off the stickers like I did to annoy friends of mine back in the early 80's that would never put those things down. Was fun to watch them try to figure out why they could never match the sides when two stickers were in the wrong spot.
  • Hmm (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Richy_T (111409) on Monday May 19, 2014 @09:30AM (#47038057) Homepage

    The Rubik's cube was invented in 1974 by Erno Rubik, a Hungarian architect, who wanted a working model to help explain three-dimensional geometry.

    I've heard this before but it makes no sense to me that the cube would in any way help to explain three dimensional geometry (any more than would a static cube of wood). Can anyone elucidate on this?

    Not that I'm complaining. Love to play with one myself.

  • by rossdee (243626) on Monday May 19, 2014 @10:29AM (#47038531)

    'There are only a handful of toys that last more than a generation.

    Oh, come on, there are many 'toys' that have been around for more than a century
    Like the 'stick with the horses head handle, the bicycle and tricycle, the spinning top, the soccer ball, the oval football, the bucket and spade (sandcastles) the swimming pool, the Y shaped catapult, dolls (and toy soldiers for boys) chalk, crayons and other drawing stuff, the seesaw (aka teeter tottor) slides, playing cards (the classical 4 suits kind) dice (6 sided, not the crappy company that owns slashdot, the skipping rope, the kaleidoscope, the boomerang, model trains, cars and boats, and the box that the toys came in

    • by MozeeToby (1163751) on Monday May 19, 2014 @11:44AM (#47039177)

      Child culture doesn't change much over the years. Look at your list and think about how many of them have been in existence for over 100 years or even 500. Many of them can be traced back to the dark ages or even further. Managing to insert your toy into part of child culture is an accomplishment worth noting; to me it remains to be seen if Rubik's cube has actually managed to do so (despite being a fan, I suspect the answer is no).

  • Bad link in summary (Score:4, Informative)

    by mgemmons (972332) on Monday May 19, 2014 @11:33AM (#47039107) Homepage
    You would expect that a link named "an interactive google doodle" would link to, you know, that and not an engadget article which has a decidedly non-interactive screenshot of said doodle . But hey, this is slashdot. Go here instead: http://www.google.com/doodles/ [google.com]

As in certain cults it is possible to kill a process if you know its true name. -- Ken Thompson and Dennis M. Ritchie

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