Parker Brothers Ping Pong Game

A Brief History of Table Tennis

Table tennis began in the 1880s, when lawn tennis players adapted their game so it could be played during the winter months. It started as a “parlour game,” mainly played by upper class Victorians but quickly expanded to anyone with access to a table, paddle, and ball.

The game has had several other names over the years including; Ping-Pong, Gossima, Whiff Waff, Pom-Pom and
Pim-Pam. Table tennis is now the recognised name for the sport.

It has been suggested that the game was developed by British military officers in India around the 1860s or 1870s, who brought it back with them. A row of books stood up along the center of the table as a net, two more books served as rackets and were used to continuously hit a golf-ball.

The game was widely known as "ping-pong" until before British manufacturer John Jaques & Son Ltd trademarked it in 1901. The name "ping-pong" then came to describe the game played using Jaques's own equipment, so other manufacturers called it table tennis.

A similar situation arose in the United States, where Jaques sold the rights to the "ping-pong" name to Parker Brothers. Parker Brothers then enforced its trademark for the term in the 1920s, making the various associations change their names to "table tennis" instead of the more common, but trademarked, term.

The next major innovation was by James W. Gibb, a British enthusiast of table tennis, who discovered novelty celluloid balls on a trip to the US in 1901 and found them to be ideal for the game. This was followed by E.C. Goode who, in 1901, invented the modern version of the racket by fixing a sheet of pimpled, or stippled, rubber to the wooden blade. Table tennis was growing in popularity by 1901 to the extent that tournaments were being organized, books being written on the subject, and an unofficial world championship was held in 1902. In those early days, the scoring system was the same as in lawn tennis.

In 1902 a visiting Japanese university professor took the game back to Japan, where he introduced it to university students. Shortly after, a British salesman, Edward Shires, introduced it to the people of Vienna and Budapest, and the seeds were sown for a sport that now enjoys popularity all over the world. 

Although both a "Table Tennis Association" and a "Ping Pong Association" existed by 1910, a new Table Tennis Association was founded in 1921, and renamed the English Table Tennis Association in 1926. The International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) followed in 1926.

London hosted the first official World Championships in 1926. In 1933, the United States Table Tennis Association, now called USA Table Tennis, was formed.

The 1950s saw the game turned upside down by the invention of the sponge or sandwich rubber, this new material for bats, which, up until now, had been a relatively simple affair with a universal thin covering of pimpled rubber.

Until this time, spin had played only a minor part in a game that had been dominated by the defensive style of play, but these new bats or paddles, introduced by the Japanese, had the capacity to move the ball around in an almost magical way.

The ITTF, the game’s governing body, was quick to legislate in a bid to control this new development, seen in some quarters as equipping players with an unfair advantage. The thickness of the sponge and rubber sandwich was controlled and remains so to this day. But the nature of the game had been changed, establishing the fast attacking speed and spin style of the modern game.

Today, the sport is very well established both in England and abroad and is growing each year. The culmination of this has been its recognition as an Olympic Games sport, being featured for the first time in the 1988 games in Seoul.

Television coverage of the men’s singles final attracted an incredible worldwide audience of 2 billion. In China, the game is played by literally millions at work, in school, and in community parks. Chinese top players are regarded as national heroes with pop star statuses.

Notable Rule Changes

After the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, the ITTF instituted several rule changes that were aimed at making table tennis more viable as a televised spectator sport.
First, the older 38 mm (1.50 in) balls were officially replaced by 40 mm (1.57 in) balls in October 2000. This increased the ball's air resistance and effectively slowed down the game. By that time, players had begun increasing the thickness of the fast sponge layer on their paddles, which made the game excessively fast and difficult to watch on television.

A few months later, the ITTF changed from a 21-point to an 11-point scoring system (and the serve rotation was reduced from five points to two), effective in September 2001. This was intended to make games more fast-paced and exciting.

The ITTF also changed the rules on service to prevent a player from hiding the ball during service, in order to increase the average length of rallies and to reduce the server's advantage, effective in 2002.

For the opponent to have time to realize a serve is taking place, the ball must be tossed a minimum of 16 centimetres (6.3 in) in the air.

The ITTF states that all events after July 2014 are played with a new plastic ball, instead of the previously used celluloid ball. This was because celluloid is an extremely flammable material, making it difficult and rather expensive to transport and store the balls.

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