Scuba computers are compact digital devices that perform the task of nitrogen management without the need of dive tables. Scuba computers combine a timer with a depth gauge. These computers run software that computes the absorption of gases within the divers body. Many recreational divers use scuba computers. While it is essential during training that all divers learn about residual nitrogen and decompression using dive tables, scuba computers will enhance the divers experience as it will perform nitrogen management. It is important that the diver periodically review the dive tables in the event of computer malfunctions.
It is important to understand that scuba computer does NOT plan any dives for the diver. The planning is the responsibility of the one diving because dive safety must be planned by the diver and not the computer. All dive certification agencies should promote dive safety.
Dive computers keep track of the following:
- depth and bottom time
- amount of nitrogen present in the diver's body
- alerts the diver if nitrogen levels are getting too high
- informs the diver to make decompression stops if necessary
Traditional dive tables use only maximum depth and time to calculate absorbed nitrogen. The calculation assumes the diver was at the maximum depth for the entire dive. This is where we find the benefits of dive computers. Dive computers do not calculate nitrogen in the same manner used when using dive table. Dive computers accurately calculate and track the depth allowing the diver to have longer bottom time. More bottom time means longer dives.
When shopping for a dive computer do consider the following:
- Can the battery be replaced by the diver or must it be serviced to be replaced?
- Can the dive data be uploaded to a computer?
- Can the dive computer handle nitrox gas mixtures as well as air?
- Can the buttons on the computer be managed while wearing neoprene gloves?
- Is the computers interface to the diver's liking?
- Does the dive computer support decompression management?
- Does the dive computer support "time-to-fly" (time you must wait between your last dive and ascending to altitude or flying)?
- Does the dive computer use a well-tested algorithm for calculating gas absorption and decompression? (Mares-Wienke Reduced Gradient Bubble Model (RGBM) Algorithm, Buhlmann Algorithm, and etc.)
Always research the dive computer's brand and model before purchasing. Look for recognizable manufacturers and consult the diver magazines and consumer guides.
-Fin For Yourself