A dive computer is more than a luxury for scuba divers: It's an essential piece of safety equipment. A dive computer can mean the difference between a safe dive and a deadly one. That's because these computers measure both the time and depth of a dive. This allows scuba divers to ascend to the surface at the proper rate to avoid the often deadly effects of decompression sickness.
Decompression sickness is a serious problem for divers. Divers can suffer this malady, commonly known as the Bends, when they rise to the surface too quickly. The effects of this condition can range from everything from joint pain and paralysis to death. Scuba divers, though, can prevent decompression sickness by relying on either decompression tables or the more technologically advanced option of dive computers.
Dive computers, which can be small enough to come in wristwatch form, automatically calculate the depth a diver has swum under the water and the length of time that diver has been under the surface. Dive computers also warn divers when they are rising to the surface too quickly or when they miss decompression stops. The more advanced versions of dive computers also provide a host of additional information to divers. They can tell divers, for example, what temperature the water is at. They can also read the pressure of the remaining breathing gas in divers' diving cylinders.
Dive computers can also make diving more enjoyable. The computers continuously re-calculate data as divers swim. With this information readily available, divers do not have to ascend to the surface until absolutely necessary. This maximizes the amount of time divers spend underwater. Serious divers might benefit, too, from purchasing a dive computer that comes with audible warning buzzers. These buzzers sound when divers begin to ascend to the surface too quickly, miss scheduled decompression stops or dive too deep below the surface. A warning buzzer may also sound when divers exceed oxygen toxicity limits.
While diver computers do make scuba diving safer, they do not eliminate all the danger from this sport. In fact, dive computers may give inexperienced divers a sense of over-confidence, leading them to take on dives that are too advanced for their experience levels. Divers should remember that dive computers, though useful tools, can never replace the virtues of common sense. When you plan your next dive, keep your own skill and experience levels in mind. Do not let the presence of a dive computer lead you to a foolish decision.