The game originated as a sport in Britain during the 1880s, where it was played among the upper-class as an after-dinner parlour game, then commonly known as "ding-dong". A row of books were stood up along the centre 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 the 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.
The next major innovation was by James Gibb, a British enthusiast of Ping Pong 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 Table Tennis tournaments were being organized, books on table tennis were being written 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 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 Table Tennis 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.