The Complete History Of Ping Pong

Ping pong history

Ping pong historyThe game of ping pong is played by millions worldwide, it has truly become an international sport with a number of the large federations and an official world championship that dates back to 1926.

Despite its fairly simplistic nature, ping pong didn’t actually begin as the game we know today.

Before ping pong, as we play it today was invented, it had to go through a few different iterations with names such as whiff-whaff and gossima.

From the name to its early equipment, it can be interesting to know exactly where ping pong’s roots actually lie.

This article will explain all.


What Country Invented Ping Pong?

With its simple rules, basic equipment, and fast-paced nature, people of different backgrounds are easily drawn to this interesting sport. Many even seek to purchase their own tables to practice their shots or simply enjoy the game with their family and friends at home. You can check out the best tables on the market today.

But what country holds the distinction of being ping pong’s birthplace?

Given their dominance of the sport, many people actually believe the invention of ping pong came about in Asian countries.

However, when you think about it, the country of origin should be fairly obvious given that ping pong is based on another vastly popular sport.

Ping pong ball bouncing on table

That sport, of course, is lawn tennis. Lawn tennis was gaining huge popularity in England during the late 1800s.

This led to the first table top versions being invented by board game manufacturers in the 1880s. While some of these games did feature the name “table tennis”, they weren’t anything like the game you are familiar with.

The early table top versions of a tennis game made use of cards, dice, tiddlywinks and even balloons – a far cry from the actual sport of ping pong.

In 1890, David Foster filed the first patent for an actual table tennis game. His game made use of rackets that had strings and a cloth-covered ball.

So, Englishman David Foster can be attributed as the inventor of the first true table tennis game. However, he did not invent ping pong.

Ping pong was still invented in England but it was not by David Foster.


Who Invented Ping Pong?

Ping pong and table tennis are now used interchangeably to describe the same game but it didn’t start out this way.

After the invention of David Foster’s table tennis game, others came along with their own spin on the game.

Woman playing ping pong

In 1891, game makers John Jaques & Son registered a table tennis variant call “gossima”. Gossima was similar to table tennis but made use of slightly different equipment.

Bats were used instead of strung rackets and the ball was made of cork.

In actual fact, neither Foster’s table tennis or Jaques’ gossima were a great success. The real breakthrough came when celluloid balls were introduced.

The trouble with cork and rubber balls was the former hardly bounced and the latter bounced too much, which didn’t make for a great game. The celluloid balls solved that problem when they were introduced in 1900.

1900 was also the year when Jaques & Son invented the game called ping pong and trademarked its name.


Why Is Ping Pong Also Called Table Tennis Today?

David Foster’s original table tennis game is actually very different from Jaque’s ping pong game and vastly different from today’s version of the game. So, how did ping pong and table tennis become the same thing?

It began in 1900 with the trademarking of the name ping pong by Jaques & Son. Other versions of ping pong were being invented that made use of equipment from different manufacturers.

By the 1920s, ping pong was extremely popular and many tournaments were being organized. The issue arose when the trademark was enforced by Jaques & Son, who threatened legal action against any tournament organizer that used the name ping pong without using Jaques’ equipment.

Vintage ping pong set

As a result, an alternative name needed to be coined so that the game could be played and enjoyed on a larger scale. The name table tennis was chosen.

Therefore, table tennis and ping pong are now used interchangeably but ping pong is actually a brand name and registered trademark. Read Ping Pong vs. Table Tennis for much more on this.


Important Table Tennis/Ping Pong Dates

The invention process of the more familiar ping pong game has taken us up to the 1920s. As we already discussed, this was when ping pong and now table tennis really started to gain popularity. Let’s take a look at some more key dates in the history of ping pong.



Formation of the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) and the first standardized set of rules.

This was also the year of the very first table tennis world championships, which was held in London. Hungary dominated the competition with Roland Jacobi and Maria Mednyanszky winning the male and female gold medals respectively.



Formation of the United Stated Table Tennis federation, which is now called USA Table Tennis.



3 major rule changes were put in place.

A 20-minute time limit was put on the length of each game. This was a result of many matches lasting longer and longer due to more defensive play styles.

The net height was also lowered to 6 inches from 6.75 inches. This was done to encourage some more attacking play in an effort to make more exciting matches.

Finger spin serving was also banned in this year. Finger spin serving is the act of spinning the ball as you toss it up before a serve, which enables you to gain an advantage from the extra spin being imparted on the ball itself.

The rules now state that the ball must begin on the flat palm of the server’s hand when serving in ping pong.

A table tennis serve



The introduction of sponge rackets. During this year’s world championships, a Japanese player, Hiroji Satoh won using a racket that featured a layer of sponge between the hard surface and the outer rubber.

The sponge layer enhances both speed and spin, which has since made it the choice for all of the top players.



Table tennis becomes an Olympic sport.



The International table tennis federation forms its’ pro-tour to bring the world’s best players together in competition by offering superior organization and greater prize money.



Ball size changed from 38 mm to 40 mm in an effort to slightly decrease the speed of the game.



Scoring system changed. The winning total for a game was reduced from 21 points to 11 points. This was mainly done to make each game more exciting since each point would now be much more crucial.



Introduction of plastic balls. The plastic balls were starting to be promoted by the ITTF in 2011 as an alternative to the celluloid balls. The raw materials of the celluloid balls were deemed to be hazardous to health so they will eventually be replaced by balls made of plastic.

As of 2014, all ITTF have been using plastic balls and the celluloid balls are being phased out completely.


There it is – the rich history of the entertaining and exciting game of ping pong.

For now, the story continues. No one knows the evolution that awaits the sport, but one thing is certain: it will continue to be a favorite of many people for generations to come.

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