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Interview With Tim Browne
Tim Browne is a puzzle collector and puzzle maker who's creations appear on ebay.com from time to time. Tim is regular around the rubik traps and has kindly agreed to share a bit about himself and his hobby.

Tim, let's start off by finding out a little about yourself, where you live, family, etc...

I'm presently living in Nanaimo, BC (of "Nanaimo bar" fame). I just moved here from Victoria about 6 months ago. My family's pretty standard. 2 parents, both retired, 1 sister a few years younger than me. Aside from the obvious Rubik puzzles and the net, my interests include reading, video games (I'm presently trying to work my way through Tomb Raider II without a walkthrough), Japanese animation, skiing, and working out. I'm sure there's others I've forgotten.

What do you do for a living?

I'm presently between jobs, and am in the process of applying for the ITAS program at Malaspina College in September.

Give us an run down of your puzzle collection, and your favourite puzzles.

The full puzzle collection? That could take a while. :-) Let's see... I've got too many Rubik's Cube variants...

  • standard schemes, one of which is mint in the box
  • a "limited edition" one with silver, gold, white, orange, black and brown stickers
  • one coloured like the Square-1
  • several tiled cubes
  • a Deluxe cube
  • Poker cube
  • a cube with shaved corners
  • an Octagon barrel
  • a Cuboctohedron
  • a smiley cube
  • loads of necklace sized cubes
  • 2 different Sailor Moon keychain cubes
  • and about 10 Ideal keychain cubes mint on the card at least)
  • Bandaged Cubes (80's and mini)
  • Siamese Cubes (Meffert's and mini)
  • Modified Bandaged cube (prototype and mini)
  • Hybrid Cube (prototype and mini)
  • Skewb
  • Meffert's Challenge (black)
  • Pyraskewb
  • Pyraminx (standard and spiny centres)
  • Megaminx (original and 2 Meffert's 6 colour versions, one of which is signed by Uwe Meffert himself)
  • 5 Square-1 puzzles, 2 of which are the 1991 models in the box (MUCH easier to turn than the Irwin/Pavillion versions)
  • Impossiball
  • Missing Link
  • the Billion Barrel
  • Meffert's Skewb Diamond
  • Wisdom Ball (8 numbers/side)
  • Rubik's Clock
  • Whip-It!
  • Pyramorphix
  • Gem
  • Starburst
  • Hexahedron
  • Star of David
  • 2 Snakes (1 red/white, 1 black/white)
  • 2 1982 Rubik's Revenges
  • 1 Meffert's Master Cube
  • 1 Pocket Cube
  • 1 Pocket Die
  • 2 Darth Maul Cubes
  • a Billion Barrel
  • a Dogic
  • 3 Professor's Cubes (1 Rubik's Wahn, 1 Meffert's "neon" one, and 1 Picture version)
  • an Octahedron
  • Rubik's Magic (2 1987 models, 1 modern "McMagic"), a Transformers Magic Junior, a Macross Mini Magic, a Rubik's Master Magic, a Bubblegum Crisis Master Magic, a Rubik's Micro Magic: Link the Rings and a Rubik's Master Magic: Create a Double Cube.

I think that's all of them. My favourites that I didn't make are the Dogic, Megaminx, Professor's Cubes, and the Octahedron.

Do you remember when you first saw the cube? How old were you? How did you think it functioned, and what were your first recollections?

My first cube was one with Rubik's preferred colour scheme back in 1980, when I was 12-13. Its functioning was completely beyond me. It just blew my mind. Have you ever heard the Barron Knights song "Mr. Rubik"? That's about how I felt playing with it until I got Patrick Bossert's book "You Can Do The Cube". :-) Before I could solve it, though, I'd always get it back to the solved state by taking it apart and putting it back together. Even back then, I thought that peeling the stickers off was something that just wasn't done. Even after taking it apart and seeing the internal mechanism for myself, it still blew my mind that someone could actually come up with such a design.

Was the cube your first puzzle? Do you still have your original cube?

It was. Unfortunately, my first cube is long since gone. :-/ Or maybe not. A couple of weeks ago, I found a cube which I thought was gone for good, so maybe it's still around somewhere.

Do you organise your collection in a display case (like I've done)? What do your friends and family think of your hobby?

I'd like to get a display case for them, but I haven't found one I like so far. Right now, I've still got them in the boxes I used to move them. My family... tolerates it. I don't think they really understand the fascination with them. My friends are far more impressed. :-)

Over recent months, you have put a lot of very rare puzzles up for sale on Ebay, ie, the Dino cube and many Rubik's magic variations. Are these originals, or custom creations? How do you come to own so many rare makes?

The reason I own so many rare makes is because I've made a lot of them myself. ;-) I guess I should come clean. The Bubblegum Crisis Rubik's Master Magic which was made "by a friend" was really my first puzzle. I guess I panicked after reading the draconian copyrights page on the Rubik's home page, and I had visions of law suits dancing through my head. Since then, I've done some research and found out that most of their claims are completely unenforceable, and that the ones which are have absolutely no relation to the puzzles I'm making. If they do end up suing me, about the only thing it would gain them is a lost customer, since almost all the components I use to make my puzzles come from their site anyway. Other puzzles I've made are the Transformers Magic Junior, the Macross Mini Magic, the Master Magic: Create a Double Cube (the one I'm most proud of by far), the Modified Bandaged Cube, the Hybrid Cube, the Hexahedron, the Star of David, and a couple of as yet unseen puzzles. ;-)

I've got some ideas in mind for some other puzzles too, including a 3x3x5 puzzle where ALL pieces can move freely, but unfortunately I don't have the resources right now to custom build the required pieces. The rare ones I've sold which I didn't make myself are the Calendar Cubes (Rubik's originals, as far as I know), The Professor's Picture Cubes (probably home brewn), the Rubik's Magic with female nudes (Asian clones), and the Dino Cube (I have no idea who made this one).

Yes the lads, at a particular puzzle manufacturing company have made some rather inaccurate claims regarding their ownership. Puzzle making will live on. You hinted at some works in progress. Any peeks or info?

Aside fom the 3x3x5 one, you mean? :-) Well, I've got some ideas for another Master Magic puzzle, which will be even more challenging than my current Create a Double Cube. I've also come up with a way to make the Pocket Cube about as challenging as a standard Rubik's Cube. Unfortunately the same technique works in reverse on a standard Rubik's Cube, but there's other ways to make that more challenging. ;-) I've been meaning to update my puzzle solutions page "real soon now" for quite a while, too, including a super simple solution to the Bandaged Cube. Like all my other solutions, it'll be equally useable for left or right handed users.

We'd obviously all like to see a ressurection of the old eighties craze. Do you think this is likely, or has the cube and it's relations had their day?

While it's true that the cube has a hardcore cult following and interest has been revived to some extent (the Cube being sold in stores again, even if the new colour scheme in Canada STILL uses paper stickers :-/), I can't really see the cube going through a mass revival, at least in the short term. Perhaps in another 10-20 years it'll gain mass appeal again, like the Bolo bat did in the 70's.

What puzzles (even theoretical) would you like to see produced in the future?

The Pyraminx Master, Pentultimate, TetOcta, OctaMinx, OctaStar, SuperX, Fisher's Cube, Rubik's Layer, Shaped Cube (size 3), PyraUltimate, Megaminx Crystal, Professor's Megaminx, higher order Pyraminx, Rubik's Domino, Rubik's Cheese, Patent #4872682, some of Udo Krell's other puzzles (Patent #04600199), Meffert's Target, and the 6x6x6 just for starters. :-) Most of these names are taken from Puzzler. I'm sure I'll come up with more that I'd really like to see with a bit more research. :-)

Do you think we'll ever see a 6x6x6, 7x7x7 or higher cube?

Well, I'm sure we'll see a 6x6x6 model if you complete your project (hint, hint). ;-) As for 7x7x7, it would be physically impossible to do so unless you have "squares" of variable size. It may, however, be possible to get very close to an 8x8x8 if the corners are dropped, by creating it as a 6x6x6 extended cube. However, such a construction would literally be hanging by a thread.

If you got the chance to meet Erno Rubik and got to ask one question, what would you ask? (sounds like a good comp question, eh:))

That's a tough call. Depending on my mood at the time, it could be anywhere from a request to see the prototype cube (assuming it still exists) or his source of inspiration, to why he allows his name to be put on something that's so obviously substandard. There's really no one way I could answer that question, but if I did get a chance to meet him and was only allowed one question, I'd make sure it was a good one with a meaningful answer (eg. If I asked if I could see the prototype cube, he could respond by showing me the cube and allowing me to take photographs of it solved, mixed, dismantled, etc., with him and/or myself in the picture, or it could be as simple as "Yes. Next!").

What would you like to see happen in the Rubik world in the future?

I'd like to see more puzzles designed by amateur puzzlers. Some of the puzzles that have been created so far, such as the Fisher puzzles, have been absolutely amazing. I couldn't even begin to imagine what other potential puzzle makers might come up with in the future, if they'd only believe in their own abilities enough to follow through on their ideas. I'd like to see puzzle companies take the independent puzzle makers seriously enough to license some of their designs and mass market them. I'd also like to see ALL the companies take their own lines seriously enough to develop high quality products like Meffert's does, and advertise them enough to revive the general public's interest.

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