Who invented the dart board? I guess we will never know, it was probably some archer in the middle ages who converted the bottom of a barrel or tree slice into the first dart board and threw his arrows at it. Dart boards were made of wood for many years mostly from elm and had to be soaked in water overnight to stop the board from splitting. However we do know who invented the first Bristle board, that was Nodor in the 1930’s, they were approached by an inventor who had an idea to make a dart board from rope! It must have sounded crazy at the time, but it worked. They took some rope strands all the same length and compressed them tightly together and hey presto the first “Bristle” board was born. This was a huge advance on the traditional wooden board. For a start no more soaking and the board was self healing and long lived. It was an instant success.
Nodor got a patent for the design and so were the only manufacturer for 25 years or so for the life of the patent. After the patent expired other manufacturers entered the arena most notably Winmau . And you thought Nodor was a funny name. Apparently the name Winmau was made up from the first three letters of the two names of the wife of the company director “Winifred Maud” hence Winmau.
Winmau and Nodor fought for supremacy in the dart board market for many years until Nodor eventually took over the Winmau brand. The two companies vied with each other to produce better dart boards with Winmau producing their Blade board and Nodor their staple free bulls eye board.
The bristle boards were used in all the big tournaments that started in the 70’s and are still used today in the prestigious tournaments like the Las Vegas classic and the British Lakeside tournament.
Then came Electronics, the electronic dart board came on the scene and changed the game overnight. The odd thing about electronic boards is they are covered in hundreds of small holes for the special soft tip darts to enter. At first glance you think how can the dart get into those holes so exactly? The holes are centered at the base of a dimple like the dimples of a golf ball, guiding the soft tip darts to the holes in the board. And it works very well with nowhere near the amount of bounce outs you might expect. There are sensors beneath the holes which trigger the electronics to record the score and deducts or adds the score to the previous one automatically, depending on the game. Brilliant, no more chalking and for tournament play a huge bonus as all scores can be collected centrally via a network.
The difference with the electronic dart board are that you have to use soft tip darts, and the tips are made of plastic so as not to damage the board. (Never use normal steel tip darts on an electronic board) Also the maximum weight of dart allowed on most electronic dart boards is 20 grams.
You can now have the best of both the steel tip and soft tip game now with the introduction of the new BristleTech boards which have bristle type fibres that can take the steel tips as well as the soft tipped darts and still work with the electronics. This could very well be the technology that will dominate the dart world from now on.
The archers of old would marvel at how their game has developed and I’m sure there is more to come, especially with the development of Bristle type boards combined with electronics. The electronic game is popular in both Europe and the US and who knows, the big tournaments like the Las Vegas classic may go that way too.