So this is the cube it all started with. In October of 2016.
The kids’ uncle (my wife’s brother) came back from a trip to Europe with some presents. He’s an architect and he had visited famous buildings and museums and, from the gift shop of the Science Center NEMO in Amsterdam, had bought a bunch of puzzles for his nephews and niece. One of them was this strange 3x3x3 Venus Pillow designed by Evgeniy, impossible to turn quickly, and with one purple side and one aqua blue side.
I owned a Rubik’s Cube when I was younger, of course I did, I was an eighties kid, and I also owned a copy of Patrick Bossert’s You Can Do the Cube, but frankly I couldn’t understand the notations and the system, and I didn’t have any friends with whom I shared this interest. I have a vague recollection of solving the cube once, but I was just following instructions and I didn’t know what I was doing. So instead I learned how to take the cube apart, put it back together again solved, and not touch it.
Seeing my kids playing with these puzzles and trying unsuccessfully to solve them, I decided that it was about time I learned properly, at least in order to teach them.
The discovery that amazed me was the present state of the world of cubing. After the initial craze, there was a bit of a lull for a few decades, but the cube had grown in popularity again, and now there were regular competitions in almost every major city in the world, a governing body, and a myriad of different methods and therefore websites, YouTube videos, and books imparting knowledge and techniques and tips and tricks, and providing the kinds of communities that I would have loved when I was a boy. In particular, a book called Cracking the Cube opened my eyes to the kinds of possibilities out there for modern cube enthusiasts.
What was lacking, however, was any really good tutorials aimed at really small children. My boy was 6 years and 1 month old when he wanted to start learning how to solve it. I know him – he’s curious and smart and patient, but would he really have the aptitude to memorize the dozens of algorithms needed? On top of which, this cube we owned was, as I said, not the easiest cube to turn for his little fingers.
So I found myself developing a method of my own, picking and choosing from the most basic methods out there, the ones with the fewest algorithms to memorize, the ones with the easiest concepts to understand, and I began setting the algorithms to music, creating a new kind of notation where the pitch of the note would indicate whether one has to turn a particular face clockwise or counter clockwise.
It took almost 2 weeks for my 6 year old to learn and memorize all the algorithms, and the first time he attempted to solve the cube without help, it took him 18 minutes.
But he did it. And wanted to become better, and faster. This led to new cubes, new methods, and a new lifestyle that eventually involved taking part in competitions and making tutorial videos. But that’s a story for another time.