Quick History of the E-Cig evolution (my memoirs).

It all started around 2006, a time when the 2nd generation e-cig was making waves on internet media and the first factories were grinding them out on mass production. I was a smoker then, so it was just out of curiosity that I bought one.

Oh, but I can't start this history without paying homage to the startup Mr Hon Li can I?.
Mr Hon is credited with the first mass produced device that mimicks a real cigerette. His first attempt used ultrasound (instead of heat) to produce vapour, was not successful and his company switched to using heat (from a coil) instead. Unfortunately (for him) he ended up patenting the first invention (ultrasound) instead of the second (heat) device. Other companies (in china) jumped at the oppurtunity and started mass rolling out thier copies of what is essentially what you see today - a coil of wire heating up a wick drenched with e-liquid. The e-liquid itself is a basic additive/preservative used by the food industry and thus not patentable.

His company, then called Ruyan, put out their first product resembling a traditional cigarette to the world at large (the Ruyan V8) in 2006. (This was two years after selling some e-cigars since 2004).
Over time, wether due to poor marketing or otherwise, Ruyan/SBT could not compete with the multitude of copycats and so began a downward spiral which ended up with them selling out to a group called Dragonite International Limited in 2007, which in turn sold the intellectual property rights to Imperial Tobacco in 2013.

Back to 2006.
Okay,  so I bought the Ruyan V8, a stick-battery attached to what was supposed to look like a cigarette but was obviously too thick. The first puff was very memorable, but like all devices (and even today), if you puff at it too many times, the performance degrades. Back then, the reliability was ten times worst. The only thing which I never (nor ever) forget was the taste of Ruyan e-liquid. And even today it is still my favorite. The mixture of tobacco and vanilla (plus something else), must still be a trade secret, because I still cannot find anything that tastes like it. The closest you can get to this taste is Dekang's DK4 (formerly RY4).

About a year later, the market is now flooded with a basic lookalike design but with the atomiser shrunk to a tiny tip inside a mouthpiece which fits over a battery which is now thinner and actually resembles a slightly enlarged cigarette. I was ordering from all sorts of companies, mainly from asia.

At this time period two major companies made their mark. One was called DSE, which was famed for it's 'tasting' atomiser, the long bore 901. the other was Joyetech, renowned for the reliable 501 atomiser and ultimately it's thread size which has become the most popular standard.

This was also the heyday of the 'Automatic' devices, which did not require a button to be pressed as you drew. But 'Autos' quickly became outdated because of their leaking problems.
I had a bin full of autos, I regarded them as disposable. China's highly competitive e-cig industry and weak Yuan (back then) kept prices low. Battery charging was still a USB dongle type charger which you screwed the battery thread into. Battery life was so short that there was a thing known as a 'passthrough', basically a converter than you plugged straight into a usb outlet with your atomiser at the other end. And if you weren't careful, an LR (low resistance atomiser) would draw too much current and burn out you computer's power circuit. In fact, battery life was 'too' low, so manufacaturers had to lie about their estimates about number of puffs per charge. A custom they still practice today.

After another year, you could buy disposal e-cigs which by this time are actually the real size of cigarettes. Little did these companies know that they were getting off on the wrong foot. Today, the PV world has segragated real cigarettes from Personal Vaporisers. The majority of sellers and punters are trading devices which don't look anything like a cigarette.

Even though Ruyan must have spent heavily in R&D, it was their competitors who were the one's innovating the products. Even today, the Ruyan brand is rarely seen or heard of even in the forums. The overall components have not fundamentally changed but the designs, methods and mechanisms have each made their mark.


The first innovation was surrounding the wicking material around the coil (instead of just touching the tip). This was liquid absorbant material in addition to the wick which is already threaded through the coil. This whole unit was called a Cartomiser which was either disposable or refilled by dripping more e-liquid on the outer wick from the top. The outer wick also had to have a 'tunnel' through which the air and vapour mixture could flow from the coil (at the bottom) to the top. A less known company that patented this was Gamucci in 2007, but it was Boge, a sister company of Dekang that popularised this concept to what were still 'disposable' e-cigs.

Probably the most important leap was the standardisation of the the 510 thread and big batteries that attached to it. The batteries are almost always lithium which can supply the required power. These ranged from 14450 to 18650 of which the latter became the most popular. These days the battery unit might not even be replaceable as some manufacturers prefer to customise their own sizes internally. Hobbyists would make their own 'Box' mods as would manufactures, with the latter adding circuitry with extra functions (see later).


Two things were innovated and immediately caught on at this time. The first were ClearoMisers, i.e atomisers surrounded by a tank of liquid instead of padding, so dripping becomes unneccessary. These models were later widened and became known as the modern day 'Tank'.

The other big leap were 'VV' mods, i.e variable voltage big battery mods. These were big battery mods with added circuitry to change the voltage. By changing the voltage you are also changing the current and power. So some devices would add functionality of either changing the voltage, current or power.

By the end of this period, the 'traditional' e-cig lookalike (resembling a real cigarette) has already been forgotten, and the landscape of product manfacturers for mods, atomisers and e-liquids, have spread to other countries other than china.


The words that dominate today's e-cig world are MOD, TANK, XXXw(atts), KIT, 18650,
and possibly TEMPERATURE.
E-liquid has had the least changes, the most notable that more VG is used relative to PG.
Most of the innovation has focused on tank designs, atomiser designs and the electronics of the mod delivering the power.

A branching out of DIY atomiser heads (where the user replaces the coil) known as RBAs and further divided into RDAs and RTAs.

Atomiser designs (non-rebuildable) have evolved from a single coil+wick pressed against a soaking material to dual-coils and quad-coils which are wrapped completely with wick. Airflow has also changed from surface feed to a 'through' feed into the middle of the coil tunnel.
Coil material is also changing from tiny thin coils to thicker coils with more mass and surface area, with various types of metal, some of which can be termperature controlled.

All this requires more power, hence the need for dual batteries or custom lithium batteries.
Even standard battery sizes (18650s) themselves have to be specified to accomodate for increased power drain (typically 50W). Circuits inside the mod can redistribute the power for up to 100-300W. All of this multiplication of coils, mass and power is in aim for more vapour production per puff. It is the equivalent of vaping say 5 to 10 first generation e-cigs in one go.

The landscape having almost being completely taken over by high power for more vapour enthusiasts have manufacturers catering for the mainstream Direct-to-Lung (DL) users. It used to be that devices were a replacement (if not a a cure) for ex-smokers who take in vapour with Mouth-To-Lung (MTL) puffs. MTL has a limit on strength and volume per puff while DL takes in much more volume with increased air-flow. This produces perhaps 10 or 20 times more clouds while keeping the atomiser cool (from burning). Not many newbies are aware of the DL method of vaping, thus get disappointed as most modern devices perform dismally when used with MTL puffs. Some companies are trying to cater for both, marking thier atomisers as such but I have yet to experience a succesful device for MTL which is not DIY.

More popular now are 'pod' systems which re-shape the tank+removable_atomiser into a pod that plugs into the battery unit.

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