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The Complete History of Table Tennis

The complete history of table tennis

If you enjoy challenging your friends and family to a rousing game of ping pong, you'll love learning about the sport's backstory. The rise of table tennis from a relaxed parlor game to a professional sport is truly inspirational.

This guide to the history of table tennis will go over who invented ping pong, when table tennis began, where the game started and how it has developed over the years. Discover the full story of how table tennis went from a casual pastime to the Olympic sport it is today.

Who Invented Table Tennis?

The first person to design a table tennis game was a man named David Foster. Foster based his idea for table tennis on the popular game of lawn tennis, which was a tennis game intended to be set up in the backyard of any house. In 1890, Foster patented his table tennis game in England.

Foster's original table tennis set consisted of strung rackets, a cloth-covered rubber ball, large side nets along the table and a wooden fence surrounding the table's perimeter. The table tennis game was part of a Parlour Table Games package, including table versions of cricket and football.

When Was Table Tennis Invented?

Although Foster's table tennis invention was patented in 1890, the concept had been around for years. People started playing different versions of table tennis in the 1880s to play lawn tennis once the weather got too cold to be outdoors. In this way, table tennis got its start as a simple parlor game.

In 1902, a Japanese professor visited England and discovered the game of table tennis, which he took back to Japan to play with his students. Shortly later, a British salesman spread the word about table tennis to Budapest and Vienna, helping the game gain international popularity.

Within Britain, table tennis continued to catch on, with leagues forming in towns outside of London. In 1922, an All England Club and a nationwide tournament were established. By 1927, table tennis became a beloved sport and the English Table Tennis Association was formed, leading the way for our modern-day table tennis leagues and championships.

When Was Ping Pong Made Popular?

If you want to fully understand what ping pong is and its origins, check out the sections below.

Who Created Ping Pong?

Ping pong is another name for table tennis that began as a lyric in an 1884 song by Harry Dacre. Dacre was inspired to refer to the game as ping pong by the celluloid ball's distinct sound when it bounced off of the drum rackets used for original table tennis. The name quickly caught on among the public and some brands even began marketing their table tennis sets as ping pong.

When Was Ping Pong Invented?

Originally, the name Ping-Pong was trademarked in Britain for table tennis equipment sold by the company J. Jaques & Son Ltd. The trademark meant that all other manufacturers had to use table tennis or other terms to describe their products or risk a lawsuit. However, at the end of the 1800s, a U.S. board game company called Parker Brothers purchased the rights to the Ping-Pong trademark.

Where Did Ping Pong Originate?

The phrase ping pong got its start in Britain before making its way across the Atlantic to the United States. Trademarking the term made it less popular in areas where the specific Ping-Pong brand was not sold, which explains why much of the world refers to the sport as table tennis.

Depending on the part of the world you're in, ping pong can go by any of the following names:

  • Gossima

  • Whiff Waff

  • Pim-Pam

  • Pom-Pom

Depending on the part of the world you're in, ping pong can go by any of the following names: Gossima, Whiff Waff, Pim-pam, Pom-pom

History of Table Tennis Techniques

Read on to find out more about the equipment used for early table tennis and how table tennis evolved into the modern game we know today.

Early Table Tennis

In the early days of table tennis, people played the game on a dining room or billiards table. Players would stretch a net across the table and sometimes even include side nets to help catch any balls that went out of bounds. Legend has it that those who could not afford an official table tennis set or did not have one on hand would construct a makeshift table tennis court by using a row of books as the net.

The earliest table tennis paddles were referred to as bats and came in a wide variety of styles. Most often, a table tennis bat was made out of wood and covered in vellum canvas stretched tightly across a wooden frame. This material created the pitched ricochet noises that earned table tennis the name ping pong.

In 1900, E.C. Goode invented the first draft of the modern-day ping pong paddle by placing a sheet of rubber on top of the wooden frame. Much later, an inventor placed a sponge between the wood and rubber, creating the basic ping pong paddle still used today.

Early table tennis balls could be made from various materials, including cork or rubber, but these balls did not provide an ideal bounce. Then in 1901, James W. Gibb found that celluloid balls were perfect for a game of ping pong and they quickly became the standard. In 2014, the standard material for table tennis balls changed to plastic.

Modern Table Tennis

In the 1950s, manufacturers began using sponge rubber to make bats. This material put a spin on the ball, which became a large part of the game. Previously, table tennis had been a predominantly defensive game. Now, players could go on the offensive and make more aggressive plays.

Later, in the 1970s, experimenting with bicycle tire repair glue led to applying rubber to the table tennis bat in a way that enabled players to put a lot more speed and spin on the ball. This speed glue became common in the sport until getting banned in 2008 due to toxic vapors from the solvent. Still, speed glue greatly influenced the game by contributing the fast attacking style and spin strategies used in modern table tennis.

When Did Table Tennis Become an Olympic Sport?

The first world championship for table tennis was held in 1927, as the sport was rising rapidly in popularity. A Hungarian won the first tournament, and throughout the 1930s, the sport was dominated by Hungarian players whose skill and inspiration contributed greatly to elevating table tennis to its official sports status.

Table tennis continued gaining fans and athletes until finally earning its spot in the 1988 Olympic Games held in Seoul, South Korea. These days, table tennis remains a well-established international sport that attracts billions of fans. Table tennis is especially popular in China, and the top Chinese players are celebrated as national heroes.

Get a Table Tennis Conversion Top From HB Home

A table tennis conversion top set from HB home

If you want to sharpen your table tennis skills, purchase a table tennis conversion top from HB Home. A table tennis conversion top allows you to easily transform your billiards table into a ping pong table, so you don't have to buy an entirely separate game table. You can enjoy playing ping pong with your friends and family while saving space and money when you use a table tennis conversion top.

Browse the table tennis conversion tops from HB Home to start perfecting your ping pong serve today.

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