Computers with Bells & Whistles – Oh My!

Guys like gadgets. This is true in life (I have an obsession with iPods) and it is certainly true in diving. Indeed diving can be considered the ultimate “toy” sport. As technology races ahead, we see spill over into sport diving, most notably with dive computers. Just as cell phones have gotten smaller and more compact with features (compare the brick phones from the 80s to an iPhone) dive computers have made giant strides (no pun intended) from the first generation ones that came out in the 1980’s.

It’s been awhile since I have talked about the latest and greatest gear out there. While I still love my Aeris Elite T-3 computer, there are a few new ones out there that made my socks go up and down.

There have been rumors and whispers about a heads up mask for about 10 years. First Cochran was supposed to come out with one then it was said that the Navy was still tinkering with it. Finally Oceanic and Aeris released the first computer built into a mask. While it does not have a true heads up display, the screen is down in the right corner of the mask. This is pretty cool. It is a slightly larger mask with a single side window on the diver’s left side. The skirt is black to keep extra light out so you can read the numbers. The mask has a slightly higher volume then the usual but it works great and is not too obtrusive. The display isn’t super big so it shows you the most important features with 2 buttons to allow access to other screens.

Depth, tank pressure, no deco time and air time remaining make up the main screen with 2 alternate screens that show the rest of your data. It is air integrated and uses the same hose-less transmitter that the T-3 and Epic use. It can be set for Nitrox. The brightness of the display can also be adjusted or even turned off as not to distract you during your dive. Hands free diving make great sense for anyone using a light, camera, video or just wanting to twiddle your thumbs.

Galileo Sol ComputerNot to be out done, ScubaPro/UWATEC debuted their latest this year with the Galileo Sol and Terra computers. I had a chance to do a week’s worth of diving down in Roatan with the Sol. On the plane ride down I can’t remember how many times I said WOW. I even had to get up and show things to some of the other passengers. After the flight attendants asked me to sit down and made sure the large electronic devise I was holding was in fact not a bomb, I couldn’t wait to dive it. The first thing you will notice is that it is large. I am hopeful UWATEC will come out with some sort of retractor or clip for it. Wrist computers have always been big (with the exception of the Aeris Epic) but this is really big. Of course the nice thing about a big screen is either big numbers or lots of info. The Galileo gives you the choice. You have 3 screen settings that will display how much/little info you want to see. It can do that with a dot matrix screen so you are not limited to certain segments in certain places. It also has 4 buttons and with such a large screen can put prompts under each button in each screen so it is very user friendly.

So let’s talk about the special bells and whistles. It is air integrated and hose-less and does all the usual computer stuff. The first thing I loved was the full screen, full tilt compass. You can set a heading and automatically, 3 other reference marks will show at 90* intervals for easy navigation. All the while, basic info like depth, dive time, tank pressure and no deco info is still shown along the bottom.

The other big feature is the heart rate monitor. It links with a Polar monitor to track your heart rate. This together with the air integration allows a truly personal no deco limit based on dive profile and work load.

Techies will like the decompression planning you can do by pre-setting oxygen partial pressure limits for up to 3 gasses so the computer will prompt you when to change gasses and yes it will monitor 3 different transmitters including your buddies if you want.

Naturally this is only scratching the surface of all the cool stuff this computer does. Come down and check out the latest and greatest in dive computers.

Let’s go diving!
Fall 2008