Timeline: How technology has affected sports officiating


1888: Photo finish

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One of the first photo finishes reportedly takes place at a horse race in Plainfield, NJ, forever changing the way the world judges close contests.

1936: Electrical scoring

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In early example of automated officiating, fencing judges are replaced by an electrical scoring system in epee events, detecting the fastest touches more accurately.

1955: Instant replay

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The first use of instant replay features a goal scored during a Canadian hockey broadcast. Decades later, it becomes a key technology for officials.

1957: Timing Touch Pads

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A University of Michigan physics professor invents swimming touch pads and the school uses them during meets, making race times more accurate and cutting down the number of officials on crowded pool decks.

1968: Fully-Automated Timing

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At the Mexico City Olympics, track and several other sports use timing systems that electronically start and stop with results accurate down to the hundredth of a second.

1975: Referee Microphones

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NFL referees use microphones for the first time, letting officials explain complicated rulings to fans watching.

1980: Electronic Line Judging

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The Cyclops computer system debuts at Wimbledon, using infrared beams to help determine whether serves are in or out.

1983: Chip Timing

Transponders are introduced into racing, tracking and timing participants individually. Chip timing revolutionizes road racing when brought to that sport in 1992.

1998: Virtual First Down Line

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During football games, broadcasters use yellow lines to show the distance needed for a first down. Like instant replay, the technology could easily move from the broadcast booth to an electronic aid for officials.

2001: Pitch tracking

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For the first time, MLB employs technology that tracks pitches and measures strike zones, monitoring home plate umpires with cameras and computer analysis.

2012: Goal-line technology

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FIFA approves two goal-line systems to signal when a player scores. One system uses high-speed cameras, while the other employs a magnetic field.