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.


  • NO – There is no need to make this a mandatory requirement for divers. What is wrong with a simple dive timer and depth gauge, its good enough for tech divers many of whom do not dive with computers.

    For recreational diving it would be better to extol the virtues and benefits of diving with a computer. Many divers at recreational level will see these benefits and purchase a computer when they learn to dive.

    Making computer diving mandatory is needless and may alienate a large proportion of divers who could find this approach a little vindictive of any organisation who instigate such a move!

    The benefits of computer diving are clear and divers will use them for that reason + its another bit of spangly kit to buy and show off and we divers love that sort of thing don’t we.

  • no is the short answer. i always dive with a computer but why would you stop someone diving with a table, a timer and depth gauge if they really wanted to ?

    “If a dive computer becomes mandatory what happens to decompression tables?” – almost the same as what happens now – vast majority are just used in the OW training course and then never again.

  • my university club encourages us to use these if we are not with an instructor or we use an underwater watch (for dive time) and tables. however those of us with computers use tables before dives, (well most of us)

  • A dive watch is nothing more than a piece of kit, as good or as bad as the person that monitors it (or fails to), it won’t stop you staying down too long, going beyond your limits or being reckless and it can’t make you pay attention to the alarms, and I’ve seen people ignoring/not realising that beeping is coming from them..

    I would be worried that making it mandatory may mean new people to the sport will think of it less as a piece of kit, and more like a seat belt – changing the mentality from “I will keep myself safe” to “it will keep me safe”.

    Kit is great, but it can go wrong, something that sometimes people forget when things are made too easy.

  • The difference in my mind is computer aided diving and computer dependant diving. I wonder if the agencies in question intend to extend course times to accomodate the training on how to use the computer or are student going to be told look but dont touch? Should someone be going in the water without the first clue roughly what the computer should be saying (18m – 56 minutes ring any bells with anyone?). If the courses are not going to be extended (which goes against recent trends) what is going to be excluded?


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