Understanding Dive Computers

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Understanding Dive Computers

Modern digital dive computers date to the early 80s, though analog devices simulating tissue gas uptake and elimination through porous membranes date back to the 70s. Analog devices were limited to nonstop diving and had a short shelf life. Digital dive computers proved highly successful and very useful right from the start, progressing from just table emulators to full up algorithmic staging devices across mixed gas, open circuit (OC), rebreather (RB), nonstop, decompression, deep, and shallow diving. Dive computers are moderately expensive items these days, and high end units range beyond $1500. Basically, a decompression computer is a microprocessor consisting of a power source, pressure transducer, analog to digital signal converter, internal clock, chip with RAM (random access memory) and ROM (read only memory), and pixel display screen. Pressure readings from the transducer are converted to digital format by the converter, and sent to memory with the elapsed clock time for model calculations, somewhere in 3-10 second intervals. Results are displayed on the screen, including diver time remaining, time at a stop, tissue gas and bubble buildup, time to fly, oxygen toxicity levels (CNS and pulmonary), and other warnings (model violations). Some 3-9 volts is sufficient power to drive the computer for a couple of years, assuming about 100 dives per year. The ROM contains the model program (time step application of model equations), all constants, and queries the transducer and clock. The RAM maintains storage registers for all dive calculations ultimately sent to the display screen. Dive computers can be worn on the wrist, incorporated into consoles, or even integrated into heads up displays in masks. READ MORE

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