Dive Computers – How taking a leap can change the game

Personal Dive Computer

Photo by Bill Downey

In 1998, Scuba Diving International was born out of the success of its sister agency, Technical Diving International. The no nonsense approach that made TDI such a hit with both instructors and students alike was immediately replicated in a bold move that shocked the rest of the industry – the replacement of dive tables with personal dive computers in open water training.

The move, though it made sense – especially since it was 1998 and not 1968, still raised a few eyebrows among many respectable instructors. “Why was SDI changing the way we do things? The way things have been working for so long….why?”

Because it was time – that’s why.

Though tables may serve a purpose in demonstrating how theory works, mastering them is no longer a requirement to safe diving – especially if diving multiple times a day over numerous days. Using a table as a back-up is also not the best way to go as you would only be able to use your deepest time and your total time rather than a true monitoring graphic of your actual depths and times that were spent at those depths. In other words, with today’s technology the table has become an outdated piece of plastic and a guide to inaccurate information.

However, with the industry creating new personal dive computers every day and making them more and more affordable, the personal dive computer was now becoming a standardized piece of equipment in open water sales. It was no longer just a set of “mask, fins and snorkel” as the required must-have tools to go diving. It was now mask, fins, snorkel and dive computer. Chances are, if you dove, you owned one.

But who was getting proper training on dive computers? Very few. Students would spend a good three to four hours learning how to use the tables. Math and other exercises and room for human error all turned into a mega session of “now flip the chart over and carry the 1”. Being required to do homework during your surface interval while on vacation was not what the customer wanted. While students would go through these hour long lab sessions on the proper use of tables, they would only get a 5 minute overview on how to properly use the computer they just purchased. The computer that would from now on be taken out on scuba trips and depended on for vital information before, during and after the dive. How about we shift the tables? No pun intended. Review the use of tables but focus on how to properly get the most out of the dive computer so that you understand the beeps and the messages and warnings and know what to do. Yes, it makes too much sense.

Though there were several instructors that did not agree with this new way of thinking, most dive centers loved the idea. It not only improved computer sales but it also allowed them to focus their training on better diving using the actual equipment the diver would depend on. Students loved it because it was much more efficient and extremely accurate compared to the tables – especially when considering multi-dives on a 7 day live-a-board.

As a whole, the industry saw this bring scuba a step closer to the year 2000 as far as innovation and staying modern. Today, the majority of the training agencies have followed suit with programs that allow instructors to teach their OW programs using personal dive computers instead of tables.

Interested in a computer diver course? Check out SDI Computer Diver


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