|My collection of various puzzles from the 80s: A Knock-off 3×3×3, the Octagon Barrel, a 2×2×2, Babylon Tower, Nintendo Barrel, Magic and Master Magic.|
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I remember that I first saw ads for the original Rubik's cube in some newspapers, most likely for direct ordering. That must have been in the late 1970s. Later, some other company brought cheaper versions to the local shops, and I finally got one of these "toys". The German Magazine "Spiegel" published a solution by David Singmaster in its issue number 4/1981 on pages 183 and 184. The solution was not efficient, but relatively easy to learn. The only drawback was a 22-turn corner piece cycling algorithm, but then someone came up with an 8-turn algorithm. I was in 7th grade at that time, and I never forgot those algorithms.
I borrowed a higher order cube from someone, while I still was in school. But I can't remember whether it was a 4×4×4 or a 5×5×5. I tried a layer by layer solve, some of the 3×3×3 algorithms could be adapted, but I had not enough time to come to a solution. Later, I wrote a BASIC program for my Commodore C=64 homecomputer to simulate these cubes. That must have been in 1985. But using the simulation was uncomfortable and slow, so I quickly lost interest in using it.
As you can see from the photo, I already had some experience with shape modifications and center orientation back in the eighties. Some notes about the other puzzles: I found the Babylon Tower far too easy to solve. It's about the same as the good old fifteen-numbers 4×4 shifting puzzle as 6×6 variant with wrap-around in one direction. The Nintento Barrel "Teufelstonne" requires sophisticated algorithms due to the three linked columns and two pairs of rings. Therefore, I quickly lost interest, and never cared about learning how to solve it. The Magic is a very impressive construction, but once you know the solution, it gets very boring. However, it still drives me crazy to restore it to its original flat state, after it got really scrambled - especially when kids played with it.
It must have been in early 2010, when I was wondering what happened in the meantime. To my suprise I found out, that there were 7×7×7 cubes from the respective patent owner on the market. And at that time, there was even a dedicated shop in Munich, where I bought my first 4×4×4 and 5×5×5 cubes in April or May 2010. Please note that the shop closed down in late 2016, and the seller is only serving internet/parcel orders now. With the help of some websites, I learned how to solve the higher order cubes, and refined the solving scheme step by step. After mastering the 7×7×7, I did some research and noticed that Chinese companies are producing 11×11×11 cubes, so I ordered one. The photos from my first solve are from June 2010, and show a time of 3:05 hours. At that time, the cubes would pop easily, and it took me about two hours solving time, after I got used to it. The problems are size, weight, aligning layers and avoiding pops. Then I ordered a 9×9×9 to save solving time, but the cube turned out to be even more poppy than the larger version. At the same time, the "official" 6×6×6 was released. It was uncomfortable to turn, due to an internal snap-in mechanism, so it was not much fun. But at least it was the only higher order even-layered cube on the market, besides the 4×4×4. This was important to find even-layer-cube algorithms that would work on higher order cubes as well, not just on the 4×4×4. At that time, I also learned some 3×3×3 algorithms to speed up my last layer solving. But I forgot all of those, due to the lack of practice.
Some years later, in summer 2015, I remembered the cubes, and noticed that the "official" ones were avaiable as 8×8×8. The turning quality was still bad, but not as bad as I expected. But my solving skills were a bit rusty, so I decided to practice with lower order cubes, first. When I thought it might be time to try the 8×8×8, I could not remember where I put the cube. Some time later, I found the original packing, but still no trace of the cube...
In October 2016 I found a web shop in the UK that would supply all kinds of cubes at acceptable price, without having to deal with the sometimes horrible customs procedures with German authorities. The first try was a 10×10×10 that turned so smoothly, that I decided to replace all my shitty Greek and poppy Chinese cubes. The aim was to replace and complete the collection from 2-13 layers with cubic black versions, as far as available. Currently, no mass-produced 12×12×12 is availble, and the 13×13×13 is only available as pillowed version. I did not care about 0×0×0 and 1×1×1 versions for obvious reasons, so my collection of current 2-11 plus 13 layer cubes was complete in January 2017.
I quickly became addicted, and bought better 4×4×4 to 7×7×7 versions, and two of the 3×3×3 top performers.
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