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April 2015    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Vol. 30, No. 4   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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No Two Dive Computers Are Alike

a study shows they’re not all as conservative as they claim

from the April, 2015 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

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Dive computers have replaced decompression tables in most types of diving since they came onto the market some 30 years ago. According to Divers Alert Network (DAN), during that same time, the overall incidence of decompression sickness (DCS), at least in sport divers, hasn't changed. While data dispels the old worries that abandoning tables for computers would result in increased DCS, they indicate that computers are no panacea. And questions still linger about how safe dive computers are, especially when comparing brands -- or even models within the same line -- to each other.

There are dozens of dive computer models on the market, and they differ in design, quality of manufacturing, and, in particular, which decompression algorithm they use. But the manufacturers generally don't disclose publically information about their algorithms, their operational use, or their DCS risk. According to Petar DeNoble, senior research director at DAN, there are at least two reasons for this: Dive computers aren't regulated by any official organization, and validating decompression safety is complicated and expensive. So while manufacturers do test dive computers, they don't have to generate all the data necessary to support claims that their computers control or reduce the risk of DCS.

Generally, most sport divers tend to prefer computers with more conservative algorithms because they're not into personal risk-taking. However, without the detailed knowledge of how each dive computer manages decompression, it's hard to know which computers are more conservative than others. And as a new study shows, some dive computer algorithms even decrease or increase their conservatism during dives, depending on the diver's depth and duration....

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The maximum no-deco stop time for 50 feet ranged from 60.7 minutes to 83.7 minutes -- that's a 23-minute difference in the time a diver can spend at 50 feet.

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