07 May 2020

Rubik's Cube, 7 May 1980 - An Important Anniversary...

I'm writing and posting this article on the seventh of May 2020, and it is a very important anniversary. On this day, the 'Rubik's Cube' trademark was registered in the UK back in 1980. Not that we were suddenly flooded with Cubes - no, there was a shortage and that is the reason 1981 was The Year of the Cube rather than 1980, but it's still an important date.

Although they were in very short supply when they started arriving here, just before Christmas 1980, the British Association of Toy Retailers noted the interest shown and declared it 'Toy of the Year'. As the craze raged after we were fully stocked in the spring of 1981, the association named it 'Toy of the Year' for 1981 too!

The Rubik's Cube made it on to the front cover of the Sunday Times Magazine's review of 1981 - and is listed just below the Royal Wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer. A special Cube depicting the union flag and the faces of the Royal couple, was produced to commemorate the occasion in July 1981.

The Cube was such a craze - it made a legend of its creator, Erno Rubik of Hungary, and saturated popular culture from late 1980 to 1982.

From the invention of the Magic Cube prototype in 1974, to a change of name and mass manufacture to Western World safety and packaging specifications in 1980, seems a short leap. Many inventions take much longer to come to prominence. But the world was very different back then. Hungary was very much 'Behind The Iron Curtain' - and the Cube's penetration of that Curtain was very noteworthy indeed - particularly in such a short amount of time. When you consider that the first test batches of the Magic Cube were not even released in Hungary until late 1977, its progress to the West seems even more remarkable.

There had been a small seepage of  Magic Cubes from Hungary to the West, but in minute numbers (there weren't that many to begin with), and without any major backing to provide publicity. The 1980 Rubik's Cube was a remanufactured version of the Magic Cube, lighter and easier to manipulate (allowing for speed-cubing), and with Ideal Toys behind it, trusted purveyor of many previous toys and games, couldn't fail to become a hit.

The remanufactured and renamed Rubik's Cube was a huge success. Perhaps its launch at the start of the new decade helped with that - new decades are eager for new fads - but the Cube was entrancing in its own right. It was aesthetically pleasing, bright primary colours with black edgings, it looked like a child's toy - surely easy to complete? (HUH!) - and it took over many lives.

Daily Mirror, 12 August, 1981: The craze was raging. Cube mania was rampant!

Ours sat on the sofa and we twirled it whilst watching the telly. We couldn't leave it alone!

Now it's as much a part of early 1980s memories as Duran Duran, synth pop, hair gel and the ZX Spectrum.

In fact, it has become an icon of the entire decade.

Happy anniversary, Rubik's Cube! Read all our Cube data by clicking on the 'Rubik's Cube' label below.