A Brief History of Dive Computers

Dive computers have revolutionized how we explore and study underwater environments, but they were not always so prevalent. Read this blog article to learn how diving practices have changed since diving computers were first introduced.

What is a Dive Computer?

A dive computer is an electronic device that is used to record depth, time underwater or air pressure and other parameters used in scuba diving. It can also be used for recording the maximum depth reached during a dive as well as the duration of scuba dives and decompression stops (either on land or at sea). The information stored in these devices may be analyzed by professional divers when planning a dive or reviewing previous dives to manage risk.

History of Diving Computers

The history of diving computers can be traced back to the early days of marine navigation. In the 18th century, a device known as a dead reckoning was used to calculate a ship’s position based on its speed and direction of travel. Dead reckoning was an inaccurate method, and sailors had to rely on landmarks to triangulate their position. In 1773, Frenchman Pierre Louis Maupertuis developed the first accurate marine navigation system, which used a sextant and the gravitational pull of the moon and planets to determine a ship’s location.

In 1884, British inventor John Henry Poynting developed what is now known as the Poynting vector algorithm. This algorithm is used in modern dive computers to generate decompression tables and other navigational information. In 1938, German engineer Walther Bacher created the first digital dive computer, which could be programmed using punch cards. The first commercially available dive computer was released in 1971 by Danish company Danabatic. Today, dive computers are commonplace in commercial and recreational diving settings around the world.

Old Dive Computer

The first commercial dive computer

The first commercial dive computers were introduced by Aqua Lung in late 1979, using transistorized components with vacuum tubes for display (with a maximum depth of 200ft.) The early computers also had hardwired circuit boards, which became a safety concern with the rise in popularity of computers and the advent of computer-controlled depth gauges. The first dive computer that was not a “hardwired circuit board” was released by ScubaPro in 1981, and featured a programmable computer chip that was used to store information so that the dive computer could recalculate air calculations when needed. The volatile memory was manufactured by Oceanic Systems, which produced its own mercury batteries for the display screens. The first dive computers (other than hardwired circuit boards) to employ a liquid crystal display (LCD) were released by O2 Computer Resources in 1983.

Comparing Dive Types

Diving computers have come a long way over the years. Back in the early days of diving, computers were used solely for mapping and navigation. Today, dive computers play a much larger role in both recreational and professional diving. So what exactly has changed?

Dive computers used to be bulky and expensive units that required a lot of input from the diver. These days, dive computers are smaller, more affordable, and easier to use. The best dive computers now come with preset profiles for different types of diving, including recreational diving, technical diving, cave diving, and more. Additionally, many dive computers now include features like decompression rates and local weather conditions. This makes them an indispensable tool for any diver who wants to make safe and efficient dives.

Types of Diving Computers

Diving computers have come a long way since their early days. In the past, diving computers were solely used for diving applications, such as navigation and flight planning. However, due to advances in technology and the growing interest in diving as a leisure activity, diving computers have been adapted for other uses as well. Today, diving computers can be used for a variety of applications, such as Scuba instruction and training, underwater photography, and research.

In the early 1960s, Dr. Robert Ballard developed the world’s first backscatter sonar system for locating treasure underwater. The sonar system relied on a computer to control the frequency and direction of sound waves to create an image of objects below the surface.

In 1975, Dr. Douglas Tompkins designed the first dry suit dive computer for use in scuba training programs. The dive computer allowed divers to maintain accuracy while underwater by monitoring pressure, personal gas reserves, and other divers’ positions. In 1977, Dr. Robert Ballard’s expedition to find the wreck of the Titanic used a computer to identify possible sites where the ship could be located. Dive computers in 1984 were used for searching of the lost airplane in Lake Michigan. The computer was designed to assist researchers in their search and made it possible for divers to converse with each other underwater during dives. In 1997, Paul Gherardi invented the dive computer for recreational divers that uses GPS technology to record depth, bottom time, and navigation data automatically while underwater using a wristwatch-sized unit that fits inside most diving boots.

How are dive computers used in recreational scuba diving?

Historically, diving computers have been used to help recreational divers determine dive times, depths, and other critical information while underwater. Dive computers are also used by professional scuba divers to improve their dive performance.
Many divers use two computers for redundancy, with one computer giving them another 120 or more minutes of reserve time.

They have been used in recreational scuba diving since the early 1980s. These gadgets are primarily used to help divers navigate and track their dive locations, as well as to provide real-time data about their dive conditions.

These gear are used to help recreational scuba divers plan their dive sequences and manage their air supply. These gadgets are used in recreational scuba diving for planning, navigation, air management, and displaying real-time information on depth, altitude, and other dive parameters. Divers may use two computers, one to track their dive location (called the “watch” computer) and the other to manage their air supply (called the “control” computer). Many divers use a backup computer as well.

How are they used in professional scuba diving?

Diving computers are used by professional scuba divers to maintain dive data, plan dives, and communicate with other divers while diving. The computers also help divers locate and identify dive sites. They are attached to the regulator and the watch-breathing cylinders. When the diver is diving, it will help maintain dive data, plan dives, and communicate with other divers while diving.  The computer will also help the diver locate and identify dive sites.  

A dive computer works by using compressed nitrogen gas to measure depth and time when using a regulator for breathing purposes. The computer has an internal battery that needs to be recharged every 30 minutes or so during its normal time of operation. It is programmed with information about the diver’s age, weight, and physical condition.  It will tell the diver where they are, what air pressure and temperature is right for that dive, and when it will end. The computer can also record dive profiles, water temperatures measured by a wet-bulb thermometer, dive times.

The display screen is the major way the dive computer shows to the diver the information needed during the ascent, ascent rate, bottom time, and all other important information related to diving. It may show things such as how much time remains in their current dive (or maybe even how much longer they have to work on that project at home), depth in feet or meters, bottom time left (for reference) as well as ascent rate which will generally be expressed in feet per minute


Diving computers have come a long way since their early days of being used in submarines and naval ships. In the present day, diving computers are worn on the body like a traditional watch, with sensors that track dive parameters such as depth, temperature, and air pressure. Thanks to this constant monitoring, divers can stay safe and comfortable underwater for extended periods of time, whether they are exploring wrecks or scuba diving for coral reefs.