Most boats now mandate that each diver have their own personal dive computer.
Diving technology is not a new concept. In fact, we humans have been pushing our limits underwater since the fourth century B.C., when the Greeks were making use of crude diving bells. In 1772, the first compressed air reservoir was invented in Paris. The early 19th century saw the first on-demand regulator. Not long after, it was discovered that we are prone to decompression sickness if we ascend from a dive without stopping. 1956 saw the first decompression tables published by the US Navy, and finally, in 1996, the Professional Association of Dive Instructors introduced its first enriched air (nitrox) course.
As we have evolved so has dive technology, so it is no surprise that the modern diver has many tools available to assist in dive planning and dive execution. Most dive boats now mandate that each diver have their own personal dive computer – depth gauges, bottom timers, and air tables are no longer the tools of the trade. Dive computers come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, features, and prices.
“Buy once, cry once,” said dive instructor James Blackman. “Your dive computer is probably the most expensive item of your dive gear setup, unless you buy a rebreather. If you’re serious about your diving, you don’t want to buy a computer that you will quickly outgrow.”
Blackman recommends the Shearwater Perdix, a computer favored in many diving circles. Its capabilities make it suitable for anyone, from a new open water diver to the most demanding of technical divers.
“The dive planning mode built into the computer is simple but powerful. It does everything I need it to do and nothing I don’t,” Blackman said. “Also, if you plan your dives on the actual device you’re taking in the water with you, your accuracy from plan to profile will be as close as possible.”
A relative newcomer to the dive market has a name most mariners are familiar with: Garmin. Garmin’s Descent line of smartwatch dive computers has evolved over the years, providing a real rival to the established brands. Not only do they offer a feature-rich suite of dive modes — including recreational diving, open-circuit technical, closed-circuit rebreathers, and trimix — but they are also able to alert you to text messages, track your workouts, and give you directions to the nearest bar after you are done diving for the day. No wonder they can be seen on the wrists of more and more divers. Many reviewers are ranking them No. 2 two on lists of recommended dive computers.
What does the future hold?
“The Garmin Descent Mk2i is the first dive computer that also does pulse ox [oximetry] and heart rate, as well as recovery time,” Blackman said.
He’s also interested in what Azoth Systems has been developing: ”Their O’Dive system, with its blood doppler, and now, integrated dive computer, is going to make the conservancy of your diving much more personalized to an individual diver’s physiology. Whereas before we picked gradient factors (technical diver’s margins of safety) on a trial-and-error basis, now we have a way to analyze our blood for bubbles after a dive and make educated adjustments. There is still work to be done on the technology, (currently there is no viable link between number of bubbles and incidents of DCS) but it’s interesting to see where this technology will lead.”
Advancements in diving technology have always come from two general places: the desire to push the envelope on what’s humanly possible and explore to greater and greater extremes; and the need to make diving safer through trial-and-error and scientific research. These two motivations may not always be aligned, but the products and technology they produce give modern divers a great array of tools to keep them safe while pursuing the limits of their own individual goals.
James Blackman is a technical diving instructor based in Miami and star of the YouTube channel “Divers Ready!” He can be reached at email@example.com
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