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The Rants of a Bitter Old Man, or: A Brief Interlude on the Evolution of Cubing Technology

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Author: Vincent Sheu

“Type-A? What is that?” Andy, Alexei, and I had recently started a cube club at our high school. Andy, the fast one, had lofty goals of eventually going to tournaments (back then, I thought there was no way I would ever reach the holy grail of sub-15 seconds). Despite my exclamations of doom, the three of us progressed, albeit rather slowly. I always felt that we were limited by hardware. The best cubes any of us had ever touched were the Rubik’s.com DIY’s (not including the original cube that Andy had gotten for 40 bucks on Ebay, and immediately destroyed with WD-40). Studio cubes were viewed as rare artifacts, to be displayed rather than played with.

Due to our limitations, we trained ourselves to turn slowly. “Lookahead above all!” Macky’s adage about most cubers having the most to improve in F2L lookahead was always at the forefront of our thoughts.

One day, Andy brought up the Type-A, B, and C cubes. The B version, apparently, was disgusting. The C was a Chinese knockoff of the Rubik’s.com DIY’s that we had been faithful to. But the Type-A: words could not begin to describe how that cube supposedly was going to transform cubing. Apparently the top cubers had tried it and many were considering switching, we heard (keep in mind that we were a small isolated pocket of cubing; much of what we heard was probably false). We eagerly ordered a few, and awaited magic.

I confess, I was disappointed. The new Type-A cube was hard and heavy. Compared to my Rubik’s.com DIY cube, it seemed unwieldy. I stayed resistant to change. The Type-D and Type-F came out. The A-II. New type-A. Through all this, I stuck with my trusty Rubik’s.com DIY. Little did I know: a revolution was occurring. No longer did cubes lock up every other move. No longer did cubers strain muscles trying basic fingertricks. Cubes could now be described as “creamy” or “crispy”. Screws were no longer a feature in cubes – they were a standard. Cubies were given teeth to prevent them from popping too easily. Others had built-in track guides to achieve a similar effect. Cubes came in light hollow varieties, as well as dense, heavier models. Sticker manufacturers printed stickers in a multitude of colors, giving cubers choices to allow them to optimally distinguish pieces during solves. In short, cubing technology had improved to the point that the new generation of cubers could have an insanely high TPS count and get a sub-15 average with average look-ahead skills.

Today, there are so many different brands of cubes on the market that whole websites have been devoted to exhibit the selection available to the average cuber. Endless debates rage about the “best” cube. From the GuHong to the Ghosthand, to the Edison, to the former Type-A series: a cube seemingly exists for every possible cuber, with every possible combination of strengths and weaknesses. It amazes me how the “little kids” at the tournaments at run can keep track of them all.

I’m happy that the influx of cubing innovation has made it possible for a new wave of cubers to improve their times relatively quickly. At the same time, I feel nostalgic; as well as saddened, that a style of cubing, which once dominated the landscape, now seems to be ebbing in influence. Foresight and look-ahead have fallen prey to blinding fast turning, made possible by new technology. One day, when I have the time, I, too may convert.

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Written by macky

December 8, 2010 at 12:14 pm