Tuesday, January 1, 2013

New Gadget - Ping Pong for ONE

I like playing ping pong.  I am not a great player but do enjoy the competition.  One of the biggest challenges is that you need a second person to play.  To make it truly enjoyable, that second person should be of equal or better skills than you.  In my house, this is easier said than done.
Growing up we had a table set up on top of our pool table.  You purists out there are scoffing already because the table is too high.  Get over it.  It's equally high at both ends.  Anyhow, we played a lot with the big prize being a game with dad.  He had developed some skills while in the Air Force and it was many years before we could actually beat him.  My brothers and I were pretty competitive and there were many heated contests.  One brother liked to play the junk game - spins, trick serves, etc.  He had to have the sandpaper racket and on occasion liked to fire it in your direction if things weren't going his way.  The ends of the table had the classic chips due to the frustrated racket slam.

When I went to college, we had a table in the dorm my sophomore year.  A group of us played quite a bit that year.  It was a good mix of players with pretty similar skills.  This made for great games.  After that, the opportunity to play took a hiatus for a while.  I was busy chasing other dreams.  After buying our first house we got a table.  I did manage to find a few people to play (my wife isn't too bad) but not as often as I would have liked.  That table was ultimately lost to basement flooding (water and fiber board don't play nice together) and was never replaced.

I had done some work for Disney at their animation studios in Anaheim.  Their techies were using our software to help in the creation of their animated movies.  Besides all the cool animation story boards on the walls, I made note of the two ping pong tables that were set up in a large common area.  Being an innovation and creativity center, they told me that this along with the video game machines were a great way to get the creative juices flowing.  They even had a ping pong league set up with the winner playing then company president Michael Eisner for the Disney championship.  Very cool. 

Shortly after that visit, we moved into a new office building.  One room had a non-functional fireplace and hardwood floors.  We didn't need it for offices and the 24 foot length was perfect for a table.  The game was back!  We played nearly every day.  It turned out to be a great meeting place and outlet for creativity.  Great games and great discussions.  The business was actually better as a result of its addition.  Most in the office played and the games were competitive sans one dude that could beat anyone playing right OR left handed.

That fun ended over a dozen years ago and brings us to today.  Our most recent house came with a pool table.  It is a beautiful table that has gotten very little use.  We were going to host a holiday party recently and my wife insisted (really) that we get rid of the pool table and have a ping pong table up and running for the party.  I was all for the idea but complained that it would get even less use than the pool table as nobody would want to play.  I got the "look" and headed out to find a table.  Rather than disassemble the pool table I chose to get a top for it.  This was easier than taking the pool table apart and gave options for down the road.  The problem however still existed - who to play?

Enter the Newgy Robo-Pong 2040 (!  This little gem was the answer to my long standing problem.  It also took care of finding a Xmas gift for someone (me) who apparently is very hard to shop for.  As soon as the table was set up I went online and ordered the Robo-Pong.  It arrived in just a few days and initial setup was less than 15 minutes (after that setup/takedown is less than a minute).  I applied power to the control unit and I was up and running.  The  wonderful design of this unit not only spits the balls at you but it comes with a catch net and ball feeding system that keeps those balls coming at you until your arm falls numb or you turn it off.  You can control the speed of the ball, the frequency of the serves, and the speed of the oscillation from the controller that sits on your side of the table.  The oscillation can be manually set from narrow to the full width of the table.  My unit came with 96 balls, plenty to keep you going for quite a while.  At higher speeds and oscillation, the balls do tend to fly around the room from all of the mis-hits but practice makes perfect.  This is one of those gadgets that works just as advertised.  If my sore shoulder is any indication, it can give you quite the workout.  Now if only I could convince the family to work on their game!

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