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How Was Table Tennis Invented?

How Was Table Tennis Invented?

It’s a game that tests your instinctive athletic reflexes and agility. At the same time, it requires intense mental strategies that are on par with chess games. You’ve seen it in the Olympics, and it’s even gained much fanfare in Singapore when our very own national team won a medal. It’s not just a relaxing paddle game; it’s a match of brawn and wit: table tennis.

Known today as an Asian-dominated game, you’d be surprised to learn that the game’s roots can be traced back to Europe. Nonetheless, table tennis still has a long cultural history from all over the world, since its invention more than 140 years ago, back in the 1880s.

So, roll up your sleeves and join in the fun as we delve into the journey of how table tennis came to be.

It Started As An Indoor Board Game

How Was Table Tennis Invented - indoor sports game
Credit: Daniel Schwen, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Originating from England, a David Foster first patented the table tennis game. It wasn’t so much the same table tennis we know of today, but more of a portable mini-board game of tennis on a table.

Later in 1898, John Jaques & Son became the first mass manufacturers of the game. Although it was still a board game at this point, when the Parker Brothers first trademarked the term Ping Pong.

The Early Days of Table Tennis, Balls And Bats

How Was Table Tennis Invented - early days

The Unfamiliar Beginnings of The Table Tennis Bat

Did you know? Because table tennis was based on actual court tennis, the table tennis bat started out as a strung racquet instead of a solid paddle.

But this quickly changed as the game got more competitive. The bat changed from strings into solid wood. And then sandpaper was added to the paddle’s surface to give the ball a better top-spin.

Finally, the bat started to take shape by the 1950s. Pimpled rubber table tennis racquets were eventually introduced with new technology in different dimple patterns and dimensions. These are the pre-cursors to the sponge-rubber table tennis bats we know of today.

The Makings of a Great Table Tennis Ball

For a simple design, the table tennis ball actually went through many different versions over the years.

The table tennis ball used to be a lot denser back in the day. It was made from rubber and then covered with a simple cloth, some even with dried animal skin. But with such a powerful bounce, it was too hard to control the rubber ball for an enjoyable game.

The material used for table tennis balls then made it’s way to cork. But with an underwhelming bounce and shock absorption, the cork ball mostly fell flat in the game.

Finally, the perfectly balanced plastic celluloid ball came along and transformed the table tennis game forever.

From Household To International Sport

Table Tennis - International Sport

By the 1900s, the official table tennis game was finally born. It exploded in popularity within the community from a casual indoor parlour game to become a competitive sport. As early as 1901, just 20 years from its debut, local table tennis tournaments began.

Then it happened. Thanks to an unnamed Japanese professor and a business salesman, Edward Shires, the table tennis sport made it overseas to countries like Japan, Vienna and Budapest.

Meanwhile in Britain, small leagues started in provincial areas. There was even a sponsored nationwide tournament by the local newspaper Daily Mirror.

Then came 1925, and it was a big year. It was when Ivor Montagu, the Founding Father of table tennis, created the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) we know of today.

This formalized table tennis as an international sport, and in 1926, the first World Championships in London began.

Fast forward about 60 years. Table tennis gained world status in 1988 when it entered the Korean Olympic games.

Modern Table Tennis Today

Modern Table Tennis

Table tennis has advanced leaps and bounds since it started as a household hobby.

Technology has refined and made further advancements to the game, from minute details of rubber types and table tennis racquets, to new paddle techniques you can use to supercharge your game.

Even today, this competitive sport is still undergoing recent rule changes like increasing the ball size to 40+mm, the ban on paddle glue and the transformation of the point-scoring system.

Whether you’re just starting as a novice or you’ve been a player for a while now, Ping Pong never gets boring. There are more exciting developments to come! So stay tuned to our blogs for some tips and tricks to boost your game.

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