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Charles Davis

In the early days of scuba diving, a military surplus life preserver, nick named a Mae West, was an often used flotation device on the surface after a dive. This was replaced by a horse collar style flotation device, which itself was replaced by early BCDs. The double hose regulator was mostly replaced with a regulator with one hose, Oval face masks were replaced with low volume mask. The development of the wet suit provided an alternative to the rubber dry suit in certain waters and the dry suit itself saw changes. The list of improvements even lead scuba diving away from a He-man activity to a family sport.

The Navy dive tables are another item that dates back to the early days of scuba diving, even predating it. Experiments with goats in a hyperbaric chamber lead to first dive tables in 1908. A hundred years ago, 1915, the US Navy adopted the tables for its diving requirements. While advance technology and further research has refined the tables, they are still basically the same as a hundred years ago. Recreational diving has used the tables for decades. Some training agency slightly modified the Navy tables to reduce the risk of a pressure injury. The navy tables had a higher percentage of acceptable DCS cases. Navy divers generally had immediate access to hyperbaric chamber. However, the introduction of dive computers, starting in the 1980s, has lessened the reliance on dive tables.

By 1997, a decade after the first commercial viable recreational dive computer hit the market, computers were widely used and divers were starting to question the need for the tables. A Study, that year, showed that outside of training few divers used the dive tables while diving. Divers, diving with dive centers, are often told the dive profile without any need to get out the tables. The surface interval is also dictated to them. While the dive site's profile may have been established at one time with a dive table, now it just a procedure. The study finding were that the dive computers were safer and predicted that computers should replace the dive tables within a few years.

Many experts at that time were divided on the use of dive computers and the elimination of dive tables.  Some saw the real time adjustment making the tables obsolete. Others warned that relying on dive computers would increase cases of DCS. That did not happen. It also did not see a significant decrease in DCS case. What did happen is it allowed divers to correct for minor mistakes without aborting a dive. A dive planned for 60 feet with tables that went to 80 feet called for the diver to ascent and make an prolong safety stop. Now, the dive computer will tell him what is current NDL is and he can plan accordingly. The concept of multiple level diving which the dive computer could calculate in real time meant longer dives when compared to basing a dive on the maximum depth.

Training agencies in the 1980s consider six different dive profiles dangerous. Now only one of the six is still considered unsafe. Most of the acceptance is due to the dive computers ability to adjust to the changes.

Currently, the debate is still going on but in reality dive tables in recreational diving is reaching the end of their life cycle.  Many of the training agencies give the option of receiving training either using dive tables or using a computer. So clearly, we are seeing that the powers to be see the tables as less important.

Do You Consider A Dive Computer A Mandatory Device?

Electronics in general and dive computer specifically have greatly evolved over the last few decades. Dive computers go beyond the recommending of dive dives and depths. Most models allow a connection to a computer to transfer detailed information. Dive logs can be examined with a range of different information being provided.  Many recreational divers see a dive computer as mandatory as a depth gauge, pressure gauge and a watch are. In many cases the gauges have been replaced with a dive computer that has a pressure functions built in.

Most live-aboard's have been making the use of a dive computer mandatory for many years, and many dive centers and resorts have followed suit. In the Philippines, pending regulations will also make a dive computer required with a few exceptions.  The state of the industry has changed since the introduction of dive computers but it seems that the demise of the dive table is finally upon us.

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