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October 2016    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 31, No. 10   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Rumbles of Dissent

from the October, 2016 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

In our September issue, I wrote a Diving Computer Postscript saying that modern pressure sensors had come a long way since diving computers were first marketed.

Davis Cunningham (Mansfield, TX) objected to my comments, saying, "My Atomic Cobalt 2 unit pressure sensors failed, registering a constant depth of about 10 feet and a tank pressure of 900 PSI. This occurred during a dive, making it unlikely to be due to salt crystals forming in a poorly rinsed device. Never mind that I am meticulous about soaking my computers after each day's activity. This is not an isolated incident. A crew member on the dive boat I was on when the failure occurred indicated that he loved the Cobalt product but that he had three units replaced by Atomic in succession before he gave up on their product. I love the computer and hope that the replacement I'm now using does not fail, but I always wear a back-up."

While the instruction manuals of most computers tell us that we should never use a computer as the sole method of managing a dive -- I'm sure that was written by their lawyers -- since both the depth and tank pressure reading were affected, this sounds more like a sinister electronic malfunction than one simply blamed on a single faulty pressure sensor depth-reading.

So, I called around and talked with an industry executive, who wishes to remain anonymous, who told me that within the diving industry there is growing concern with the quality of inexpensive pressure sensors now being supplied. The industry is tight-lipped; there is an ongoing class action against Aqua-Lung for alleged bugs in the software of Suunto computers (See Undercurrent, August 2015 and January 2016).

At the same time, there are moves afoot in Europe to legislate for all computers sold to have depth readings accurate to within a few inches. This will cause the retail prices of European computers to escalate, but then we'll have accuracy. The American dive industry fights any government regulation, regardless of the risk to sport divers, so we will have to wait to see if American-made computers decide to compete on accuracy or simply on price.

-- John Bantin

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