The earliest direct thermal papers were developed by NCR Corporation (using dye chemistry) and 3M (using metallic salts). The NCR technology became the market leader over time, although the image would fade rather rapidly compared with the much more expensive, but durable 3M technology.
Texas Instruments invented the thermal print head in 1965, and the Silent 700, a computer terminal with a thermal printer, was released in the market in 1969. The Silent 700 was the first thermal print system that printed on thermal paper. During the 1970s, Hewlett-Packard integrated thermal paper printers into the design of its HP9800 series desktop computers, and integrated it into the top of the 2600-series CRT terminals as well as in plotters.
In the 1970s and early 1980s, Japanese producers (such as Ricoh, Jujo, and Kanzaki), using similar dye-based chemistry, formed partnerships with barcode printer manufacturers (such as TEC, Sato, and others) and entered the emerging global bar code industry, primarily in supermarkets. U.S. producers such as Appleton (NCR’s licensee), Nashua Corporation, Graphic Controls, and others fought to gain market share. Leading pressure-sensitive label producers such as Avery Dennison became major consumers of direct thermal paper for label applications.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, thermal transfer, laser printing, electrophotography, and, to a lesser extent, ink jet printing began to take away industrial and warehouse barcode applications due to better durability. Direct thermal made a strong comeback with point of sale receipts (gasoline pumps, cash registers, rental car receipts, etc.).
During 1998, Nintendo used thermal paper technology for their Game Boy Printer.
In 2006, NCR Corporation’s Systemedia division introduced two-sided thermal printing technology, called “2ST”.