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Classic Games (Games) Games

The Other Pong 98

theodp writes "Before there was Pong, there was Ping-Pong. Table tennis began in 19th-century Victorian England as a parlor game for the upper-middle class, with cigar box lids used as paddles. Today, as BusinessInsider half-joked, federal law requires all tech startups to have a functional ping pong table. Photographer Alec Soth discusses his love of the game in a NY Times interview and shares some vintage photos of the sport from his new limited-edition book Ping Pong. So, why do people — especially lots of computer programmers — get obsessed with Ping-Pong? Table tennis is 'a way to do a physical sport that has actual athletic qualities but is kind of contained,' explains Soth. 'There's a real mental element to it. It's not chess, but your brain is engaged. It's a break from neuroses.'" As workplace stress relief games go, a ping-pong table is also a lot easier to carry than an air hockey set-up or a bowling alley.
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The Other Pong

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    So, why do people — especially lots of computer programmers — get obsessed with Ping-Pong?

    It's the bong hits, stupid.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I had a job interview, for a job at a technical university, on a ping pong table. Was pretty cool.

  • by Joining Yet Again ( 2992179 ) on Sunday September 22, 2013 @10:30AM (#44917599)

    A sufficiently large group of people will have lots of members obsessed with almost any well-known pastime you can think of.

    A homogeneous group is likely to randomly have certain obsessions tip over critical mass, and then it's just a matter of fitting in.

    There's not always a peculiar explanation for everything, you know.

    • the startups I've been at did not have a ping pong table. Foosball and pool, yes. Also, I interviewed at a place that mentioned they had bowling league most employees belonged (yes, in Chicago)

      • I know I haven't been a regular "employed" person for over decade so don't really have to give a fuck, but I can't bear the idea of semi-forced socialisation with colleagues at a private company. They're there to profit from my work, and I'm there to collect a salary.

        Now, I'll do *solidarity* all the way, but that will be based on my voluntary interaction with my peers, not on management initiative. If anyone mentioned socialisation at interview, I'd be concerned.

    • Ping Pong is particularly good as a choice because it's a great way to beef up the cerebellum with all that cross body coordination. Plus, it's fairly cheap, the main expense being the room you put it in. Balls are cheap and tend to last a long time, same goes for the paddles.

      It's also a great way of developing focus and clearing the brain when you get stuck in a rut.

      Obviously, there are other choices that have merits, it's just that Ping Pong is pretty efficient.

      • by Cederic ( 9623 )

        It's also a very physical game and I don't want sweaty people in my office.

        Play table football or pool or something instead. You know, a game where you can actually share information and discuss random shite while playing, rather than bouncing around like a demented kitten on acid.

    • True. Used to be some brutal frizbee with a group of guys I worked with.
  • by Anonymous Coward


  • Maybe it's because table tennis is the closest thing to a computer game that is socially acceptable at work.

    • Maybe it's because table tennis is the closest thing to a computer game that is socially acceptable at work.

      There's fifty percent of ping and fifty percent of Pong in it. The perfect computer smoothie!

  • Even folded up, a ping pong table is much bigger than a air hockey table.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    At every startup I have ever worked, folks wanted a pool table but when management found out what they cost we ended up with a ping pong table.

    Same thing with office space. Everyone wants a good space where you can get work done during regular hours but when you price out offices or even cubicles the BS about "communication" and "collaboration" comes out to justify the open plan office.

  • by DamonHD ( 794830 ) <> on Sunday September 22, 2013 @11:01AM (#44917747) Homepage

    Maybe other things, but the two long-lived small companies that I've been a founder of have had no ping-pong tables or other sporting paraphernalia: many of us simply didn't enjoy 'compulsory' group activities/fun and still don't.



    • Gee, the founder doesn't like X and (presumably) gets to determine where the money is spent -> nobody else gets to play X (and say they don't like it either)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 22, 2013 @11:13AM (#44917795)

    My psychiatric training, including playing ping-pong with patients, was invaluable at an early start-up. Being good enough to *lose*, at will, while making the other person feel as if they'd earned the win was as much of an art form as playing with patients overdosed on Thorazine. They can get "tardive diskinesea", where physical motions are profoundly delayed from when they're intended, and aiming the ball to where their paddle will wind up, so that the game can continue cheefully, was the kind of skill needed to realize you *have* to leave bugs in your code so the system architect will feel empowered by fixing them, and will stay the hell out of insisting that you rewrite everything to some made-up-on-the-spot new scheme that you've already tried and know damn well didn't work 20 years ago, either.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    King Kong played ping pong with his ding dong.

  • Where I worked a few decades ago. We had a ping pong table. It was great for unrolling blueprints on during working hours.

  • by Guy From V ( 1453391 ) on Sunday September 22, 2013 @12:55PM (#44918273) Homepage
    As a former HS and Division-I varsity college "normal" tennis player (albeit low on the ladder) I scoffed at "ping-pong" pretty much like everyone else. That is until one of my teammates dared me to not look like an idiot at one of the fraternities' (women's) intramural practice sessions. I lost that dare big-time. After that I actually was interested in it as an actual sport...the fact that there were also relatively hot chicks helping me out kind of gave me a bit of incentive, also. I actually play once in a while even now and that was almost 20 years ago. I even have a STIGA rosewood racquet that is worth almost 100 bucks and replacement rubbers (yeah that's right). Anyone who thinks volleyball, the cue sports, or even golf require mental focus and physical dexterity anywhere near table tennis are seriously misinformed. If any physical game could be compared to chess I think it would be table-tennis. Ok, now mock away...I can take it.
  • No way I feel like spending all my time at work, even if some of it is spent in "ping pong"

    I'd rather be outside or at home in my free time

  • Pingpong, handball, racket-ball and any FPS - i totally suck at anything that requires reaction time faster than "glacial". Put me on a bicycle though....
  • Call it 'ping pong'.

    • by arth1 ( 260657 )

      And there's nothing wrong with being an amateur. Everybody can't make a living out of it, or there would be no one to pay.

      Colloquial names for sports are common. We can deal.
      If you insist on saying table tennis, pugilism and association football, no one is going to stop you. But others may continue to say ping-pong, boxing and soccer.

    • of course its wiff waff - be careful tech city of Boris will mandate wif waf tables at every start up near old street
    • by fliptout ( 9217 )

      All of China calls it "ping pong" (actually ping pang qiu, but I digress). Doubt you can call them amateurs, as they have professional ping pong leagues.

  • by msobkow ( 48369 ) on Sunday September 22, 2013 @03:47PM (#44919171) Homepage Journal

    Ping pong is attractive to the tech crowd because it can be played indoors.

    It's scary out there in the real world with that hot ball burning things from the sky.

  • We had a foosball table, too. It got much more use than the ping pong table - it's much easier for beginners to join in games with more experienced players.

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