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Should Dive Computers Be Mandatory?

An email landed in my inbox yesterday from a diving manufacturer about school dive computers and how training agencies are contemplating making dive computers a mandatory piece of equipment. It’s an interesting question. Should they become mandatory? I have debated this very question with a few instructors before and there are very good arguments for and against. Dive computers are undoubtedly the norm now and the vast majority of divers will be using dive computer of some description. They typically allow longer dives whilst maintaining safety, they alert us to our limitations such as nitrogen loading and ascent rates and they make diving incredibly easy which lets us get on with enjoying the dive. But, is easy a good thing? If a dive computer becomes mandatory what happens to decompression tables? Is a new student going to learn it for the exam and then completely forget how to use it on the basis of “What do I need to know that for?”. In the unlikely event (but it does happen) of the dive computer failing, would that new diver then know what the no decompression time is for their maximum depth as a backup? At the same time there could be a task loading issue for students under instruction. As an instructor would you want to add another device to monitor on your first few dives? It’s a given that buoyancy is not always perfect until we have had a chance to practice so is a dive computer screaming at you because you are ascending a bit too fast a good thing? Nerves and apprehension are quite often a issue and the distraction of dive computer could be all it takes to tip a student over the edge. There is no getting away from technology at the end of the day, its moving into every aspect of our lives. At some point it’s going to happen but have all the potential issues been thoroughly considered? Time will tell.

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