Erno Rubik was born in Budapest, Hungary during World War II. His mother was a poet, his father an aircraft engineer who started a company to build gliders. Rubik studied sculpture in college, but after graduating, he went back to learn architecture at a small college called the Academy of Applied Arts and Design. He remained there after his studies to teach interior design.
Rubik's initial attraction to inventing the Cube was not in producing the best selling toy puzzle in history. In the mid-1970s, he worked at the Department of Interior Design at the Academy of Applied Arts and Crafts in Budapest. Although it is widely reported that the Cube was built as a teaching tool to help his students understand 3D objects, his actual purpose was solving the structural problem of moving the parts independently without the entire mechanism falling apart. In Rubik's Cube, twenty-six individual little cubes or cubies make up the big Cube. Each layer of nine cubies can twist and the layers can overlap. Any three squares in a row, except diagonally, can join a new layer. Rubik's initial attempt to use elastic bands failed, his solution was to have the blocks hold themselves together by their shape. Rubik hand carved and assembled the little cubies together. He marked each side of the big Cube with adhesive paper of a different color, and started twisting. He did not realize that he had created a puzzle until the first time he scrambled his new Cube and then tried to restore it.
"It was wonderful, to see how, after only a few turns, the colors became mixed, apparently in random fashion. It was tremendously satisfying to watch this color parade. Like after a nice walk when you have seen many lovely sights you decide to go home, after a while I decided it was time to go home, let us put the cubes back in order. And it was at that moment that I came face to face with the Big Challenge: What is the way home?" - Erno Rubik
Rubik's Cube was first called the Magic Cube (Buvös kocka) in Hungary. The puzzle had not been patented internationally within a year of the original patent. Patent law then prevented the possibility of an international patent. Ideal wanted at least a recognizable name to trademark; of course, that arrangement put Rubik in the spotlight because the Magic Cube was renamed after its inventor.
The first test batches of the product were produced in late 1977 and released to Budapest toy shops. Sales of the Rubik's Cube were sluggish until Hungarian businessman Tibor Laczi discovered the Cube. While having a coffee, he spied a waiter playing with the toy. Laczi -an amateur mathematician- was impressed. The next day he went to the state trading company, Konsumex, and asked permission to sell the Cube in the West.
Magic Cube was held together with interlocking plastic pieces that prevented the puzzle being easily pulled apart, unlike the magnets in Nichols's design. In September 1979, a deal was signed with Ideal to release the Magic Cube world wide, and the puzzle made its international debut at the toy fairs of London, Paris, Nuremberg and New York in January and February 1980.