Dave Ulmer invented geocaching and introduced it to the world on May 2, 2000, the day after President Clinton stopped the intentional degradation of the Global Positioning System (GPS) signals available to the public.
On a USENET newsgroup (that eventually evolved into this very group), Ulmer wrote, "Now that SA is off we can start a worldwide Stash Game!! With Non-SA accuracy…should be easy to find someone's stash from waypoint information.
"Waypoints of secret stashes could be shared on the Internet, people could navigate to the stashes and get some stuff. The only rule would for stashes is: Get some Stuff, Leave some Stuff!!"
The following afternoon, he continued, " Make your own stash in a unique location, put in some stuff and a log book. Post the location on the Internet. Soon we will have thousands of stashes all over the world to go searching for."
That same day, Ulmer hid the first stash, reporting, "Well, I did it, created the first stash hunt stash and here are the coordinates:
N 45 17.460 W122 24.800
"Lots of goodies for the finders. Look for a black plastic bucket buried most of the way in the ground. Take some stuff, leave some stuff! Record it all in the log book. Have Fun!
"Stash contains: Delorme Topo USA software, videos, books, food, money, and a slingshot!"
His concept was accepted eagerly and soon stashes, as they called them way back then, began to crop up in the far reaches of the world. Rampant conversation about the new, wacky idea quickly led to discussion about the less than desirable term stash, and on May 30, Matt Stum suggested an alternative name, geocache, reasoning, "Several people have already stated their dislike for the term "stash" on the basis that it sounds illegal…The word cache both brings forth feelings of nostalgia for the days of exploring, as well as a "techie" feeling for those that associate it with computer memory."
Ulmer grew up in Jacksonville, Florida, one of the smartest kids on the block. As a youngster in the early 1950s, he built transistor radios in band aid boxes and souped up mini bikes that reportedly went over 100MPH in a quarter mile. According to a letter from a childhood friend, "Let me assure you Dave Ulmer is NOT your ordinary man…At age 14 Dave completely overhauled a Buick automatic transmission...with no manuals or training…Get him to tell you about his invention of a high-output "still" made from a household water heater!"
As an adult, Ulmer pursues snowmobiling, dirt biking, wine making and a love for the "sweet spots" he finds while researching the thousands of geocaches hidden around the world. He also has a soft spot for cats.
Early in the evolution of geocaching, Ulmer began to have some misgivings about the game. He began to worry about legalities like permission issues and ecological damage. Commercialization of the game was also an issue. As early as June 12, only six weeks after his invention, Ulmer wrote, "You really don't see the problems with a sport until you get deeply involved in it…" Several days later he wrote, "Imagine a tiny path through the forest with ferns that almost cover your feet as you walk. As the trail winds through the forest it passes a large clearing covered with fern. In the middle of the clearing is a large log. Sitting on this log gives you a beautiful view of mountain peaks.
"What a great place for a Geocache! The log is only 100 meters off the trail. Geocacher plants his cache under the log and records the coordinates for display on the Internet.
"...Ten years later...The clearing is now covered with foot paths approaching the log from all directions. Ferns are trampled all over the place. Around the log is a 10 meter circle of mud. Initials of many visitors are carved in the log, geocache is there but empty…" Frustrated, on June 17, the inventor of geocaching wrote, "OK, OK. I Give Up! All development on the sport of Geocaching should cease."
Well, Dave didn't just drop out of geocaching. In fact, he remained quite active in various discussions about the game, still predicting that geocaching would fall into a competitive, commercial, ecological and legal maelstrom. In retrospect, he wasn't that far off.
Meanwhile, as geocaching grew in world wide popularity, someone (Jeremy Irish) started Grounded, Inc., the website that eventually became the largest, most popular geocache listing site known today as Groundspeak, or geocaching.com. As the site grew, the owner sought ways to make it pay for itself and initiated a deal with 20th Century Fox, the producers of the movie The Planet of the Apes. The promotion involved a dozen or so caches hidden and listed with the same name.
It was during this period that Ulmer was becoming more and more disillusioned with the evolution of his invention. He logged one of the Ape caches with what was considered by Groundspeak to be political remarks and his log was deleted. Ulmer wrote in the Yahoo GPSstash group on June 2, 2001, "Greetings! Since my log of winning the A.P.E #2 cache hunt was censored off ofGeocaching.com, I thought I would make just a few comments here in hopes of a little more tolerance of my views.
"Here is what I said that was censored: (I hope I remember exactly) "Yep, I got there first! Dave Ulmer Creator/Inventor of Geocaching found the A.P.E #2 cache all by myself... I would tell my hunt story but this web site would then claim Copyright on my work as they havedone with Geocaching itself... Dave Ulmer, Creator"
About the same time, he was banned from the Groundspeak forums and he archived all of his caches, removing most of the statistical data accompanying them.
Also about the same time, Groundspeak removed mention of Ulmer by name in their published version of the history of geocaching. To this day, Groundspeak claims that the first geocache was placed by "a someone."