The RUBIK'S Cube Craze In the 80s

By Mark Nobes

The 1980s was certainly not short of crazes, and you may remember all the girls at school suddenly turning up to school wearing leg warmers over their jeans and crimping their hair. Well, forget those, because back in 1981, there was a craze that us boys could get into, too. Yes, just about every school kid wanted a Rubik's toy, firstly the Cube and then the Rubik's Snake!
The 3D puzzle was definitely more popular with the geeky kids (to start with, at least), and I remember groups of them sat around a school desk twisting and turning with this new-fangled, multi-coloured puzzle toy at breakneck speed! Before long, everyone wanted a go, including the school bully, who more than likely snatched it from one of the geeks before throwing it on the floor and stamping on it because he wasn't bright enough to solve it!

The Rubik's Cube was invented in 1974 by the Hungarian sculpture and Professor of architecture Ernő Rubik. It was originally called the Magic Cube and was licensed by Rubik in 1980 to be sold by the Ideal Toy Corp.

351 million units of the original 3D puzzle have now been sold worldwide, making it the world's top-selling puzzle game. Of course, goodness knows how many unofficial cubes have been sold, too!

It is widely considered to be the world's best-selling toy, and was certainly the best-selling toy of the 1980's.

Original Rubik's Cube 3x3
Other Cubes that are available are the less challenging 2x2, which is recommended for beginners, and the even more challenging 4x4 cube.

Do You Remember Peeling Off The Stickers?

The original first cube was a 3x3, 3D combination puzzle with six faces, as shown above. Each face has a different colour, with six colours in total which are; white, blue, red, green, orange and yellow. Nine stickers were originally used on each face, and I remember that the 1980's cubes were prone to peeling and fading.
These days, plastic panels are used to avoid this problem, but I do remember some of my friends at school peeling off the stickers and placing them in the correct order so that they could falsely claim to have solved the cube!
Failing that, you could actually prize the cube apart and fix it back together again in the right order, which is something I definitely did, although you had to be pretty careful not the snap the plastic connectors. A light touch was recommended.

Rubik's Cube Books

Various books were published during the 1980's explaining how to solve the cube, some of which became bestsellers. There was definitely a very lucrative market for teaching people how to solve it!
One of the most popular publications in the UK was You can Do The Cube, written by the schoolboy Patrick Bossert, which was published by Puffin in 1981. My parents actually bought me this book for Christmas, but despite containing "simple, step-by-step instructions", I am still unable to solve the damn thing! That's probably not the fault of the book, as it's more than likely I just couldn't be bothered to read it properly - teenagers, huh! In fact, the most memorable part of the book for me is that front cover, which features Patrick himself, complete with geeky round specs and a basin haircut, and another ginger-haired kid that looks like Pogo Patterson from Grange Hill.
You Can Do The Cube by Patrick Bossert (1981) Puffin Books

Official Cube Solving Records

The latest official Rubik's Cube is engineered for speed, and is quite an improvement on the original 80s version. Indeed, it is still hugely popular, and there are many speed cubers who continue to enter competitions and try to break official records. If you would like to attempt to break the world record for solving any of Rubik's products, then you should contact the World Cube Association, who now also sell official merchandise.
The current record for the 3x3x3 cube is a mere 3.47 seconds (yes, you read that right!) held by Yusheng Du from China. 
The official Rubik's website features details of the latest products available and also lots of hints and tips on how to solve the cube.
The cube can currently be bought as the old model or the newly engineered one.


My parents bought me the original Rubik's Snake sometime in the early 80s, and it was a ghastly cream and brown colour. A newer version came in green and blue, which was slightly more pleasant to look at!

The original snake features 24 identical wedges that can be twisted into shapes. These days it's called the Rubik's Twist, but is still virtually the same as the original snake - apart from those nasty colours, of course!

These days there are all sorts of amazing Rubik's puzzles (and non-original clones) are available, including the Magic Puzzle and incredibly difficult Sudoku Cube, Rubik's Pyramid Pocket and an Orbit Puzzle Ball.

Unlike the cube, there is no set puzzle to solve, although there were books that challenged you to create geometric shapes such as animals and objects. Indeed, there is an almost limitless number of shapes that you can create. The main challenge that came with the original Snake in the 80s was to undo the ball shape that it came shipped as and then recreate it again. The official record is currently 3.652 seconds.
Original brown and cream Rubik's snake 1980s

Original brown and cream snake

An original 1980s Rubik's Snake - red and cream

This is an original red and cream snake from the 80's in the shape of a dog - sort of!