Table Tennis History
The game originated in England during the 1880s, where it was played among the upper-class as an
after-dinner parlour game. It has been suggested that the game was first developed by British military officers
in India or South Africa who brought it back with them. A row of books
were 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 from one
end of the table to the other. Alternatively table tennis was played
with paddles made of cigar box lids and balls made of champagne corks.
The popularity of the game led game manufacturers to sell equipment
commercially. Early rackets were often pieces of parchment stretched
upon a frame, and the sound generated in play gave the game its first
nicknames of "wiff-waff" and "ping-pong". A number of sources indicate
that the game was first brought to the attention of Hamley's of Regent
Street under the name "Gossima". The name "ping-pong" was in wide use
before British manufacturer J. Jaques & Son Ltd trademarked it in
1901. The name "ping-pong" then came to be used for the game played by
the rather expensive Jaques's equipment, with other manufacturers
calling 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 their 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. During the early 1900s, the game was banned in Russia because the rulers at the time believed that playing the game had an adverse effect on players' eyesight.
In 1921, the Table Tennis Association was founded in Britain, and the International Table Tennis Federation 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.
In the 1930s, Edgar Snow commented in Red Star Over China that the Communist forces in the Chinese Civil War had a "passion for the English game of table tennis" which he found "bizarre".
In the 1950s, rackets that used a rubber sheet combined with an underlying sponge layer changed the game dramatically, introducing greater spin and speed. These were introduced to Britain by sports goods manufacturer S.W. Hancock Ltd. The use of speed glue increased the spin and speed even further, resulting in changes to the equipment to "slow the game down". Table tennis was introduced as an Olympic sport at the Olympics in 1988.
After the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, the International Table Tennis Federation instituted several rules changes aimed at making table tennis more viable as a televised spectator sport. First, the older 38 mm balls were officially replaced by 40 mm balls in 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 rackets, which made the game excessively fast and difficult to watch on television. Second, the ITTF changed from a 21-point to an 11-point scoring system in 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.
Variants of the sport have recently emerged. "Large-ball" table tennis uses a 44 mm ball, which slows down the game significantly. This has seen some acceptance by players who have a hard time with the extreme spins and speeds of the 40 mm game.
There is a move towards reviving the table tennis game that existed prior to the introduction of sponge rubber. "Hardbat" table tennis players reject the speed and spin of reversed sponge rubber, preferring the 1940-60s play style with no sponge and short-pimpled rubber. Defense is less difficult by decreasing the speed and eliminating any meaningful magnus effect of spin. Because hardbat killer shots are almost impossible to hit against a skilled player, hardbat matches focus on the strategic side of table tennis, requiring skillful maneuvering of the opponent before an attack can become successful.