As a reader of such an esteemed grandparents blog as ours, you may join Ask Granny in bemoaning the loss of certain time-honoured entertainments among the young. In our day, it seemed that you only needed a rudimentary ball and some space at the back of your house – and often, not even that – to keep yourself entertained. Now, it’s all about Facebook, video games and… well, there is one obvious traditional toy that remains popular: the Rubik’s Cube.
Like all of the great pastimes down the ages, the Rubik’s Cube has struck that sweet balance between being easy to get to grips with, but difficult to master. Since the invention of this 3D combination puzzle by Hungarian sculptor and architectural professor Erno Rubik in 1974, we’ve probably all used its deceptively simple internal pivot mechanism to arrange and rearrange those coloured faces. And yet… the holy grail of every face being returned to consisting of a single colour, is never quite reached. Why else do you think Rubik’s Cubes are still such strongly-selling grandchildren’s toys, decades after they reached their supposed peak?
Now, you might be forgiven for thinking that even the Rubik’s Cube has been allowed to become ‘old hat’ in recent years… but actually, the digital revolution has in many ways simply brought the familiar formula into new formats and territories. Computer software can be used to simulate puzzles like the Rubik’s Cube, and that’s before you consider the many variations of Rubik’s Cube that have long existed, with as many as seventeen layers. The original cube inspired electronic versions like the Rubik’s Revolution and Slide, while the TouchCube is a 3x3x3 cube variant, with patterns of coloured lights that rotate when a finger is slid across its faces.
Such a wide range of variants should give you plenty of fresh ideas when you are considering the best gifts for grandchildren – but bear in mind that the Rubik’s Cube is so deeply embedded in popular culture these days, that people don’t even need to own one to signal their appreciation for it. Just look at the merchandising that has sprung from Erno’s humble invention – from keyrings and desk tidies to cufflinks and T-shirts featuring such memorable images as a melted Rubik’s Cube. Pleasingly, many of the Rubik’s Cubes depicted in these products are in their pure, ‘resolved’ form…
Today, it seems that we just can’t escape the Rubik’s Cube – but then, why would we want to? It pops up on our favourite television programmes, is the subject of competitions overseen by the curiously hardcore and simply brings joy to people of all ages around the world. Ask Granny can’t think of a sounder tribute to any grandchildren’s gifts than that.