Who invented the dice and why

No matter where Ernő Rubik travels, his invention is always there before him. At the Nuremberg Toy Fair, visitors crowd around his stand. Most of them hope to get an autograph. Rubik holds a Rubik's cube in his right hand and a black felt-tip pen in his left hand. Before he applies the pencil, he rotates the cube 90 degrees. And then he writes; but not from left to right, but from top to bottom. The left-handed Rubik has developed a technique in which his hand does not blur the letters.

Ernő Rubik is an inventor, emeritus professor of architecture and one of the most famous Hungarians. Today he has come to the place where his success began a little over 40 years ago. Here, at the Nuremberg Toy Fair, the game inventor Tom Kremer discovered the cube and decided to make the game from what was then the Eastern bloc known in the West. Kremer acquired the trademark rights and sold them to an American toy company. The Americans were hoping to sell one million copies, which turned out to be a huge misjudgment. Instead of the planned million, 30 million units were sold in the first year. Today Rubik's Cube, which has been marketed under the name of its inventor since 1980, is part of popular culture and has been sold over 450 million times worldwide.

"When you have solved the cube, you are far from finished"

Journalists crowd around the 75-year-old inventor at the Nuremberg trade fair. Rubik is about 1.70 meters tall, has short gray hair and is suntanned. He smiles, pulls up the corners of his mouth, but keeps as much distance as possible from the photographers. In a low voice, he talks about his time as an architecture professor in Budapest. He invented the cube to improve the spatial thinking of his students. He had the idea in spring 1974 and then built the first prototype out of wood. The heart of the invention is the star-shaped mechanism, which enables rotation around three axes. But making the invention known was the hardest part. Almost three years have passed from patent application to production. There was no advertising in then socialist Hungary and he had hardly any influence on production either. Nevertheless, the Rubik's Cube managed to jump over the Iron Curtain. He doesn't know whether he was the first dollar millionaire in the Eastern Bloc, says Rubik. The best thing about his invention is that his six grandchildren are well looked after.

Rubik believes that the success of the cube is due to the fact that it was invented on the threshold of the analogue to the digital age. "As a puzzle, the cube has a digital appeal," says Rubik. "The solution is based on algorithms." At the same time, however, it is also an analog, physical object. The cube also aroused the interest of many mathematicians trying to find the most efficient solution. No easy task with more than 43 trillion possible combinations. In 1982 the first Rubiks World Championship was held and the cube became a competitive object. The world record is 3.47 seconds today, held by a man from China.

Rubik himself doesn't care about speed. The first time it took him over a month to solve the cube. For him, the cube is not a puzzle, but a game and an art object. "When you have solved the cube, you are far from finished," says Rubik. When asked why the Rubik's cube still fascinates so many people today, the answer is simple: "The surface of the world has changed," says Rubik, "but our feelings and our longings are still the same as they were thousands of years ago. "