What is a Dive Computer?
In simple terms, a dive computer is a device used by a scuba diver to measure time and depth of a dive based on a pre-programmed algorithm. In reality, today a dive computer is as important a piece of diving equipment as your regulator. It constanly calculates and displays a safe dive profile and ascent rate for you so you can avoid decompression sickness.
Why Should You Buy A Dive Computer:
Again simply put, a Dive Computer extends your bottom time. In contrast to dive tables that only calculate “square diving profiles" based on your MAX DEPTH and MAX TIME after your dive. Your dive computer continuously calculates based on your ACTUAL DEPTH and ACTUAL TIME during your dive. Their ability to automatically measure your depths and time, mean they are able to warn you that you're apporaching your max NDL or Bottom-time, warn you of an excessive Ascent Rate and even help time your Safety Stop. Dive computers also allow you to more accurately calculate your dive profile for Repetitive Dives during your surface interval.
Because dive computer's continually “re-calculate” based on changes in the depth and time of a divers profile, you benefit by being able to safely remain underwater for longer periods of time and by being given more chance for spontaneity during your dives.
Dive computers today display four main pieces of information all divers should measure throughout their dive. First is: your current depth of the dive, Second: your maximum depth achieved during the dive, Third: your NDL or “No Stop Time” (the remaining allotted time for a particular depth without requiring a decompression stop during ascent), and Fourth: overall dive time (the time measured from the start of the descent to the beginning of the direct ascent to the surface).
Other features to consider when choosing your dive computer. NITROX has now become a standard feature that plays a big part in diving today. The ability to download dive information from the unit directly to a PC. Just over the past year "Bluetooth" technology has made it into even entry level dive computers. The Air Intergrated capability to measure Tank pressures for yourself and possibly for others. The ability to record and track a dive log history, the option to turn on a back light for night or low visibility dives, and the capability to set audible or visual alarms. Color displays are making up a bigger part of the market.
Many dive computers today are being produced with a feature called Air Integration. An air integrated computer tells the diver the pressure in their tank and eliminates the need for a separate pressure gauge. Now that the computer is able to keep track of the pressure in the tank, the computer determines the diver’s rate of breathing and therefore how much longer their tank will last. Because an air integrated computer can measure the current no decompression limit as well as determine the remaining air pressure, the computer can therefore determine which time is the limiting factor and displays that information to the diver allowing for the max dive time possible. Although air integrated computers may command a higher purchasing price those prices have come down. Many divers consider the AI's additional features (such as quick disconnects, audible “low on air” alarms, and transmitter connections) offered by the computers outweigh the difference in price.
Wrist or Console Mount:
Modern dive computers come in two basic setups. You can choose either a wrist or console mounted type. Wrist computers are stand alone units which are housed in a boot that connects to the wrist via a durable watch band or bungee. They may be purchased in either a standard puck size or a smaller watch style version that may be used for everyday wear. Wrist style computers are great for those that may be updating an older console setup or looking for a way to eliminate a hose from their regulator setup. Certain wrist mounted computers offer divers the option of purchasing an AI transmitter which allows for monitoring of the tank pressure via a wireless link. Console computers are mounted in your SPG console and usually take the place of the depth gauge. If air intergrated it replaces both depth and pressure gauges in a normal console setup.
Advantages Of Using A Scuba Computer
A dive computer can be advantageous to planning your next dive because it simplifies the process. In case you’re on the fence about whether or not you should add a scuba computer to your list of diving accessories, we have five good reasons why you should get one.