What is the history of table tennis?

The origin of table tennis has never been exactly pinpointed, even though it's a relatively young sport, younger than lawn tennis and not much older than basketball.

The earliest known form of the sport, called indoor tennis, was played in the early 1880s by British army officers in India and South Africa, using lids from cigar boxes as paddles and rounded corks from wine bottles as balls, with a row of books set up across the middle of a table to form the net.

Other versions developed in England during the 1890s, known variously as "whiff whaff" and "gossima," and Parker Brothers began manufacturing an indoor tennis kit that included a portable net that could be set up on a table, a small ball covered with netting, and miniature paddles.

James Gibb, an Englishman who visited the United States in 1900, brought some hollow celluloid balls home and began playing indoor tennis with friends, using the new balls. Gibb apparently came up with the name "ping pong," representing the sounds of the ball hitting the paddle and then the table.

However, an English manufacturer of sporting goods, John Jacques, registered "Ping Pong" as a trade name in 1901 and sold American rights to Parker Brothers, who came out with a new kit under that name.

Another Englishman, E. C. Goode, in 1902 covered his wooden ping pong paddle with pebbled rubber, which allowed him to put spin on the ball. A Ping Pong Association was founded in England that year, but it lasted less than three years, mainly because Parker Brothers' control of the name made equipment rather expensive.