|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. When the first Original Rubik's Cubes were available through local toy stores, the price was about 30 DM. At that time this was a lot of money for a puzzle that you possibly can't solve. Later, some other company brought knock-off versions at half of that price to the local shops, and I finally got one of these "toys". The German Magazine "Der 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 (now known as "bandaging"). 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 were 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 were 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 additional 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. Well, it was more due to the circumstances, an illegal Chess move L5-S1 swept me off the board. No, just kidding, I don't play Chess, that's a herniated disc in the lower spine. Try cubing while lying flat in bed, it's a strange perspective, and totally uncomfortable. Anyways, I noticed that the "official" cubes 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 the 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. At the end it turned out that it was simply hidden behind the 11×11×11 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. At that time, no mass-produced 12×12×12 was availble, and the 13×13×13 was 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 also bought better 4×4×4 to 7×7×7 versions, and two of the 3×3×3 top performers.
It might have been the last chance for hassle-free shopping from the UK (who would have guessed that it will take until early 2021?), so I checked out what was new. I never cared about the magnetic hype, so there was no reason for upgrading until then. In the meantime, an improved version of the 6×6×6 was available, as well as high quality and smaller size 8×8×8 and 9×9×9 cubes. A search on the internet revealed that the delayed 15×15×15 became available in the meantime, as well as a stickerless 17×17×17 from another manufacturer. However, local web shops offered the cubes at 600 and 800 Euro, so the urge to get these cubes was not very strong...
For some strange reasons, I decided to learn the cuboid algorithms. It turned out that only four algorithms are needed to solve any 2×2×N and 3×3×N cuboid. For 2×2×even cuboids, you must be familiar with 2×2×2 solving. For 3×3×odd cuboids, you must be familiar with 3×3×3 solving. That is because of the additional 90° turns with these cuboids. But for 2×2×odd and 3×3×even cuboids, all you need are the special cuboid algorithms, and some basic cubing skills like assembling rows or permuting edges.
Driven by the quick success, I decided to check out for other easy to learn twisty puzzles.
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