I noticed not long ago that the Little Miss was carrying around a small Rubik’s Cube. “Where did you get it?” I asked her.
“I got to pick it out as a prize at school,” she told me.
I asked her if she knew what it was, and then I explained to her how it worked. You moved it around this way and that, in an attempt to get a solid color on each of the six sides of the cube. She then began trying and it kept her occupied for some time.
Until I saw the Little Miss with the Rubik’s Cube, I couldn’t recall the last time I’d seen one. I was 8 years old in 1980, when the Rubik’s Cube was licensed to be sold by the Ideal Toy Company. I don’t remember when I first got one, but I remember a time when I seemed to be obsessed by them.
I never managed to solve the Cube, although I eventually got to the point where I could get multiple sides in solid color. When the Little Miss’s Rubik’s Cube was idle one evening, I picked it up and tried my hand at it. It wasn’t the full-sized cube that I was used to, but a smaller, key chain variant. Still, it didn’t take long before I began to recall some of the moves that allowed me to made progress.
Later that week, while attending the Little Man’s Pinewood Derby competition, I noticed one of the scouts beside me with a similar puzzle, in this case one called the Megaminx. It reminded me of two similar puzzles I had to compliment my Rubik’s Cube.
The first was Pyraminx, a Rubik’s-style puzzle in the shape of a 3-sized pyramid. I seem to recall that one being much easier to solve than the Rubi’s Cube, and thus I tended to prefer that one because I could make more progress than I could with the Cube.
The other was Rubik’s Snake. In my memory, this was called “Rubix’s Magic Snake.” This was a different type of puzzle, one in which you could create all different kinds of shapes by twisting and turning the snake. The puzzle was to figure out how to make this shapes from a simple outline or image.
These Rubik’s puzzles made their debut right around the time the first handheld electronic games emerged. Both required hand-eye coordination, both often involved solving puzzles (remember Merlin?). Both were simple, one a simple mechanical device, the other a simple electronics device. They offered hours of entertainment (and not a little frustration).
It was nice to see the Little Miss playing with a puzzle that I played with when I wasn’t too much older than she. Maybe if she plays with it enough, she’ll be able to solve it. While writing this post, I looked up the mathematical theory around the optimal solution for the Rubik’s Cube, and despite having a much greater understanding of mathematics than I did as an 8-year-old, the explanation still managed to go over my head.