Some format of Ping Pong or Table Tennis has existed since the 1880s. Originally played among the English upper classes as an after-dinner parlour game, and commonly known as Whiff Whaff, the game was played with books used for bats knocking golf balls across the table. Later the game was played with cigar box lid paddles and balls made from champagne corks.
The name Ping Pong was trademarked in 1901 by British manufacturer J. Jaques & Son, who sold this name to the Parker Brothers in America . To avoid disputes others referred to the game as Table Tennis, as they developed and registered slight variations of the game.
British enthusiast James Gibb discovered celluloid balls on a trip to America, followed by a further advancement in 1901 when E.C. Goode invented the modern version of the racket by fixing stippled rubber to a wooden blade.
Popularity of the game (in all its formats) ebbed and flowed in England until the 1920s, while it began to flourish in central Europe, China, Japan and Korea.
The first World Championships were held in London during 1926, the same year in which the ITTF was formed. In 1929 the tournament, held in Budapest, was won by Fred Perry, more commonly known for his exploits with a Tennis racket. This year also saw the beginnings of the standardisation of the rules in Europe and the Far East.
Over the following 90 years the game hasn’t changed much in essence, but has developed world-wide, with over 30 million competitive players and millions more playing recreationally.
At the top level, there have been countless technological innovations, in particular to the rubber coverings of the bats, which as a result are far removed from the basic £2.99 bat with which most ping pongers are happy to play. In the last decade or so, the ITTF have tinkered with various rules of both the game and the permitted equipment, in an attempt to keep the elite sport a contest primarily between humans and not rubber manufacturers. Nevertheless, the spin and speed on show can make serious table tennis seem a distant cousin of the game played casually in bars, youth clubs, prisons, garages, and workplaces around the world.