What Popular Children’s Toy Was Originally Created To Solve Structural Problems?

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A product photo of the colorful and iconic Rubik's cube
Lars Karlsson/Wikimedia

Answer: The Rubik’s Cube

One of the world’s most iconic and best-selling toys didn’t begin life as a toy at all. What we now know as the Rubik’s Cube was created in the early 1970s by Hungarian professor Ernő Rubik while working in the Department of Interior Design at the Academy of Applied Arts and Crafts in Budapest.

He created the cube as a teaching mechanism to help his students study the structural problems inherent in creating something with independently moving parts, but a cohesive and stable central mechanism. He never intended to create a puzzle, let alone a toy, but quickly realized after his first attempt at restoring his new teaching tool to its original configuration that he had crafted a fiendishly difficult puzzle.

Rubik filed for a patent and began selling the puzzles under the name Magic Cube in toy shops around Hungary. The toy proved quite popular and by the end of the decade, Rubik had secured more patents internationally, changed the name to the Rubik’s Cube, and began shipping the toy to countries around the world. Although the peak of the Cube’s popularity was in the 1980s, it has remained a briskly selling toy with annual sales of 15 million units worldwide.

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