Dive tables were once our only option for planning and undertaking safe dives. Back then planning a dive was time-consuming and complicated. Dive computers were introduced to ease the process of calculating decompression time remaining, nitrogen loading and ascent rate.
Today dive computers have a variety of advanced options: they can be set for diving with a selection of gases, have modern colour screens, they allow different levels of conservatism and the user can even choose the algorithm (mathematical model) depending on the type of diving they are doing. As technology advances, dive computers are becoming more and more integrated with our everyday lives.
Wireless air integration is also common. This works via a sender unit (sometimes called a transmitter or POD) that fits into a high-pressure port of the regulator first stage. It sends cylinder pressure data to compatible dive computers to display cylinder pressure on screen and will save it in your dive logs. A dive computer can also use this information to calculate air-time remaining values - a beneficial optional upgrade.
Another recent technological advancement is Bluetooth connectivity, which supersedes the need to physically connect the dive computer to a PC with an interface cable. Bluetooth allows smart devices to wirelessly connect to compatible dive computers. You can then download dive data, share dive profiles to social media, change settings and update the computer firmware.
While the functions and features of dive computers can vary, there are four basic formats:
- Wrist mounted with a large, easy to read the screen
- Console-mounted that often feature air integration via the hose
- Smaller dive watch size that offers many of the features of the larger computers but in a compact, low profile housing allowing it to be worn for everyday use
- Heads-up display which can be mounted on the regulator second stage with a micro LCD display
Leading brands include Suunto whose first dive computer was manufactured in 1987, Garmin with available sports modes and smartwatch functions and Shearwater who provide some of the best reliable models and after-sales customer support in the world.
It is important to remember that decompression theory and our bodies change with time. If your computer is some years old, you owe it to yourself to retire your outdated model for safety reasons and upgrade. Not sure where to start? Then do call us. You might also like to read our Guide to Dive Computers for helpful tips and insights into different types of dive computer or read our Top 10 Best Dive Computers blog.