Cheap, small and liable to keep kids (and big kids) occupied for hours, days, months, on end. It sounds like every parent's dream, doesn't it? Well, in reality, there was nothing more frustrating - or rewarding - in the world of toys than a Rubik's Cube.
The genius behind possibly the most iconic toy of all-time (I'll let you argue that one out) is Erno Rubik, a Hungarian sculptor and professor of architecture. He created the timewaster of a 3D toy measuring 2.25inches on each side, consisting of a 3x3x3 assortment of 26 coloured squares. The aim of all this? Attempting to unscramble the squares by twisting the rows of squares around, so you eventually end up with only one colour on each side.
The original Rubik's cube (called a Magic Cube) first came onto the scene in the mid-70s, but it only became a craze once Ideal released it into American culture. In 1980 it won the German Game Of The Year award for Best Puzzle. From then on, brows were uniformally furrowed as we battled to crack the code... Until they realised the coloured stickers could be peeled off and reassigned by their own fair - if a bit blistered - hands. Cheats! But we weren't all cheaters. And for those who didn't stoop this low and for those for whom colouring in competitions no longer challenged them, there were competitions to enter to see who could solve the Rubik's cube the fastest.
The Rubik's Cube World Championship was held in 1982 in Budapest, where crowds witnessed a boy of only 16 years' worth of cube cracking under his belt solve the cube in under 23 seconds! Since then, the record has been broken over and over again, currently standing at 7.08 seconds, set in 2008 at the Czech Open. Other crazy cube competitions have featured contestants solving their's underwater, blindfolded and even using only their feet!
The year 2008 also saw the Guinness record being set for the most people solving a Rubik's cube at one time - 96 people, for the record. Where could things move on from this little cube, you might have wondered? Well, once its global success was cemented, the merchandising machine really kicked in. Continuing on from the success of the original Rubik's cube - well there had to be more for those who'd completed it - there were the 2x2x2 Pocket Cube, 4x4x4 Rubik's Revenge, Rubik's snake, Rubik's clock, Rubik's Magic, pocket chains for the hardcore addicts, and more recently Soduku-theme cubes.
Other legacy's include a cartoon, an addict's support group (really!) and no doubt a fair few cases of RSI (repetitive strain injury). But so worth it, so say the 350 million people who've bought a Rubik's cube to date.
In February 2009 the most exciting update yet was unveiled at the American Toy Fair in New York - The TouchCube. The cube works on the same principle as the original, but is an electronic. light-up, touchscreen version, sure to excite fans of the toy. This time around, moves can be undone and the cube even gives you handy hints.
See, things were always harder years ago. Exams, parents, Rubik's Cubes.... Kids don't know how good they've got it today!