Divernet

COMPUTERS
  • It seems remarkable that some divers are still using crude tables to calculate their decompression requirements and a watch and depth-gauge to monitor their dives. Diving computers have been with us a long time now, and the Hans Hass DecoBrain and Orca Edge were not unlike the dive computers of today, though they were available as long ago as 1979. The algorithm used by the Swiss-made Decobrain was developed by BÃhlmann. The computers were spoiled only by the fact that battery technology of the time was not yet appropriate
  • The Dacor Microbrain was probably the first computer that was truly wrist-sized.
    I had one in 1987 but all evidence of its existence in the marketplace seems to have disappeared.
  • Our sense of hearing is almost redundant under water and in 1994 the Finnish computer manufacturer Benemec decided to harness this fact by offering a computer that would give the diver information directly by ear. Alas, few divers were ready to accept such a revolutionary idea. How many will go for computers with a visual head-up display when they are readily available
  • Air integration of diving computers promised to do away with that mistake so often found to be fatal - faulty air-management. In 1995, the Suunto Eon was one of the first to be integrated with the air-supply by a hose from the regulator to a console. Shortly afterwards, the Aladin Air-X went one step further by introducing a radio-operated transmitter that allowed the computer to sit neatly on the wrist, something that few divers believed was possible at the time.
  • Calculation of decompression when accelerated by the use of different mixes of nitrox was first addressed in the DiveRite Nitek3 of 1997.
  • In 2002 the Suunto Vytec was introduced. It combines a multi-mix function with gas integration by wireless transmitter and further, like its siblings launched earlier, it uses an algorithm (Suunto RGBM) that accounts for the possible formation of micro-bubbles in the body of the user.

    TOP TO BOTTOM: Hans Hass DecoBrain; Mares Dive Mate; Aladin Air X; Suunto Eon; DiveRite Nitek 3; Suunto Vytec
  • src="http://diverfiles.net-genie.co.uk/data/images/1003innovations01.jpg" src="http://diverfiles.net-genie.co.uk/data/images/1003innovations02.jpg" src="http://diverfiles.net-genie.co.uk/data/images/1003innovations03.jpg" src="http://diverfiles.net-genie.co.uk/data/images/1003innovations04.jpg" src="http://diverfiles.net-genie.co.uk/data/images/1003innovations05.jpg" src="http://diverfiles.net-genie.co.uk/data/images/1003innovations06.jpg"

    REGULATORS
    src="http://diverfiles.net-genie.co.uk/data/images/1003innovations07.jpg" src="http://diverfiles.net-genie.co.uk/data/images/1003innovations08.jpg"
  • In 1959 the development of the two-stage single-hose regulator by Sherwood made breathing much less fraught with complication after the single-stage twin-hose affair.
  • Buddy-breathing from a single regulator was consigned to history with the advent of the octopus-rig made possible by the single-hose regulator design. But belief in the ability of these new designs to perform met with incredulity in some quarters and their use was officially adopted by the BSAC only when it finally abandoned buddy-breathing, more than 40 years later, although it had recommended Ãalternative air-sourcesÓ since the Diving Officers Conference of 1983.
  • Diver saw to it, with its pioneering ANSTI tests back in 1988, that the design of the new breed of regulators was up to the job. While the BSAC still had a working committee trying to come up with a system for tandem-breathing to allow two divers to breathe from one regulator in an emergency, in 1989 we took an Apeks regulator beyond 50m with four divers breathing off it simultaneously. The rest is history.
  • Regulators used to be heavy and made of metal. With the development of thermo- plastics, lightweight regulators became the norm, but this meant that designers had to consider offering specifications to suit their use in cold fresh water too.

    TOP TO BOTTOM: Early Mares single-hose regulator; first Diver in-water regulator test at 55m, from 1989.

    SUITS
  • Drysuits used to be thought difficult to get into, not very comfortable, and not very dry. Viking of Norway probably offered the first suit to Brits that actually kept the water out and the diver dry, and claims to have been making similar suits for five decades. Gates Rubber was another early manufacturer.
  • In the 1970s DUI went one better and used compressed neoprene to make a suit that was tough enough to withstand the rigours of hard use. This probably started the demise of the semi-dry suit as standard issue among British sport divers.
  • Drysuits are getting better all the time. The first neoprene suit I saw that was computer-cut for a perfect made-to-measure fit was in 1993 and made by Northern Diver. Companies such as Otter now use extremely tough and specially developed materials, while Hunter has the lead on vulcanised-seam technology.
  • Even the humble wetsuit and semi-dry suit has seen improvements. Highly efficient titanium linings keep the heat in and seals at wrist and ankle keep cooling water out. It was probably Mares, in 1994, that offered the first semi-dry suit, the Isotherm, that included a cross-shoulder dry zip.

    TOP TO BOTTOM: Viking drysuit; Northern Diver computer-cut neoprene drysuit
  • src="http://diverfiles.net-genie.co.uk/data/images/1003innovations09.jpg" src="http://diverfiles.net-genie.co.uk/data/images/1003innovations10.jpg"

    BCS
  • Believe it or not, the first leisure divers found neutral buoyancy hard to achieve. Adjustable Buoyancy Life-Jackets, or ABLJs, solved that. One of the first was the Fenzy, from 1961. It looked like a horse collar and had to be fed manually by the diver blowing into it. Then it became air-integrated with a supply from its own 400ml cylinder.
  • In 1969, David Parker, then a keen club diver, hit on the idea that the air in an ABLJ could be used as an emergency breathing source, and developed a suitable valve in his home workshop. These became so popular that he gave up his job in the motor industry and started AP Valves.
  • Scubapro can probably be credited with the idea of the first jacket-style BC, in 1971. It was air-integrated by direct-feed from the medium-pressure port of the regulator.
  • Zeagle in America can almost certainly be given credit for the first BC, in the 80s, to have an integrated-weights system that could be dumped in an emergency.
  • The first wing-style BC was the Watergill Atpac of 1972, but it didnt catch on. Zeagle was the first company to bring the wing-style BC (or Back Flotation Jacket) to the UK, around 1987.
  • It was innovative Mares that introduced the first hoseless direct-feed and dump system, in the form
    of the Airtrim, as recently as 1999. Now every other manufacturer of BCs seems to be rushing to bring out its own version of that idea.
  • Trim-weight pockets in BCs are probably of no consequence to users of steel tanks but they have made a lot of difference to divers who use the aluminium tanks more commonly found worldwide.
    TOP TO BOTTOM: Fenzy adjustable buoyancy life-jacket; Scubapro jacket-style BC; Zeagle wing

  • src="http://diverfiles.net-genie.co.uk/data/images/11003innovations11.jpg" src="http://diverfiles.net-genie.co.uk/data/images/1003innovations12.jpg" src="http://diverfiles.net-genie.co.uk/data/images/1003innovations13.jpg"

    REBREATHERS
  • Rebreathers are often thought of as the latest development in scuba-diving apparatus, yet they were invented long before the Aqualung. Peter Readey with his Prism must be given credit as an early evangelist of rebreathers for leisure-divers and Diver reviewed the use of his early prototypes in 1993/4.
  • Many companies had rebreathers in development during the 90s but it was the German company DrÃger that launched the British-made Atlantis in 1995 as the production model of a semi-closed circuit rebreather that divers could actually buy.
  • By1996 Martin Parker of AP Valves was diving a prototype of a closed-circuit rebreather and was so impressed that he determined to put one into full production by late1997. His associate company Ambient Pressure Diving remains the only manufacturer to offer a CCR that is CE-approved.

    TOP TO BOTTOM: Peter Readey (left) and John Bantin with the Prism; DrÃger Atlantis semi-closed circuit rebreather; Inspiration closed-circuit rebreather
  • src="http://diverfiles.net-genie.co.uk/data/images/1003innovations14.jpg" src="http://diverfiles.net-genie.co.uk/data/images/1003innovations15.jpg" src="http://diverfiles.net-genie.co.uk/data/images/1003innovations16.jpg"

    FINS
  • In the development of fins, we saw natural rubber give way to modern technopolymers. Spiro/Technisub was one of the first companies to offer such a lightweight fin, the NASA, to British divers in the mid 80s. Italian manufacturer Cressi continued to develop the flicking fin that was angled away from the foot-pocket, while nearby rival Mares came up with the first multi-channel design in 1986.
  • It was left to Americans to try to radically change fin shapes and Bob Evans started his own production with his avant-garde Force fins as early as 1980, while Pete McCarthy sold licences to existing fin manufacturers to use his Natures Wing split-fin design. In 1999, Apollo in Japan was the first company to adopt the split-fin, ironically in what is now thought old-fashioned natural rubber.

    RIGHT: Bob Evans and a Force Fin prototype
  • src="http://diverfiles.net-genie.co.uk/data/images/1003innovations17.jpg"

    MASKS
  • Masks used to be big, oval and with a black rubber skirt. When they flooded they were hard to clear, and when they were not flooded they gave a narrow field-of-view. Today all divers seem to use low-volume masks with silicone skirts and its hard to identify which was the first low-volume mask to reach us from the mask-mines of Genoa and Taiwan. We are going to take a risk and say it was the TUSA Liberator.
  • Ocean Reef was probably the first company to design a full-face mask squarely aimed at the modern leisure-diver in 1997.
    RIGHT: Ocean Reef Neptune mask
  • src="http://diverfiles.net-genie.co.uk/data/images/21003innovations18.jpg"

    LAMPS
  • Lamps have come a long way since lead-acid batteries and car headlamps were employed. Rechargeable ni-cad batteries and tungsten halogen bulbs were an early advance, only to be superseded in this century by charge-at-any-time nickel-metal hydride batteries with intelligent chargers and high-intensity discharge lamps (HID). High output LEDs, with incredibly long burntimes, are also now arriving on the scene.

    RIGHT: Siebe-Gorman underwater lamp with a modern Gilan HID unit
  • src="http://diverfiles.net-genie.co.uk/data/images/21003innovations19.jpg"

    PHOTOGRAPHY
  • Underwater photography was simplified with the introduction of the Calypsophot camera, later to become the Nikonos in 1963. Invented by a Belgian and sold by a Frenchman to a Japanese company, the Nikonos range that developed from it became standard issue with underwater photographers for three decades until it was superseded by high-tech SLRs with integrated TTL flash, multi-matrix metering and motordrives contained within sophisticated submarine housings.
  • Just as the digital camera is responsible for the demise of mini-labs and wet film processing for personal snaps, so has the digital camera of the late 90s in its minuscule underwater housing replaced the more modest end of the underwater photographers arsenal. Only the tiny compact video camcorder from companies such as Sony can be said to be more popular with divers intent on recording their underwater experiences. The first HandyCam with a purpose-built submarine housing can be traced back to before 1987.

    TOP TO BOTTOM: From early Nikonos to the Nikonos V
  • src="http://diverfiles.net-genie.co.uk/data/images/11003innovations20.jpg" src="http://diverfiles.net-genie.co.uk/data/images/1003innovations21.jpg"

    UNDERSUITS
  • In the realms of insulation we have come a long way since divers wore a thick sweater under their drysuits. The first specially developed undergarment was the open-weave woolly bear of the 70s. It let air easily migrate through it. Divers noticed this effect when standing about in windy weather clad only in their woolly bear, because the wind whistled through.
  • Undersuits moved on with the development of highly efficient proprietary fabrics such as Thinsulate, Tactels, Flectalon, Polartec and Weezles micro-fibres.
  • The electrically heated XCM undersuit, complete with sophisticated computer-driven controls, worked admirably when we tested it in 1998 but seems to have been adopted by few divers probably because of the high price. It is now made by DUI.

    RIGHT: C-Bear undersuits

  • BOATS
  • Boats used by divers have improved hugely both in terms of seaworthiness and safety since club divers first put to sea in ex-WD inflatables. It was the students and staff at Atlantic College who first added a rigid hull to theirs. The design, which evolved into the Atlantic 21, was adopted by the RNLI. During the 1970s Frank Roffes Humber Attaque was probably the first commercially made RIB to become popular with diving clubs and developments of it are still available today. The rigid-hull inflatable boat or RIB is almost as standard a part of the British diving scene as the aqualung and is now readily accepted the world over for its high performance and good sea-keeping qualities.
  • Reliability in dive boats was closely tied to the reliability of engines. Only recently has the smoky two-stroke given way to sophisticated four-stroke outboards and it was Honda that led the way as early as 1980 with its first, albeit only 7.5hp, model.
  • In the realms of boat navigation, the advent of GPS and affordable receivers in the 1990s has made the easy location of dive sites at sea almost expected. Electronic echo-sounders have made confirmation that the dive boat is positioned over the right spot available to all.

    TOP TO BOTTOM: Atlantis 21 RIB; fully equipped modern RIB
  •  width=

    SAFETY
  • In the realms of diver safety, we have to thank Jim Corry of NAUI for bringing the idea of emergency oxygen therapy onto dive-boats back in 1983, when he demonstrated the idea to then Vice-Chairman of the BSAC, Mike Busuttili and National Diving Officer Mike Holbrook. The administration of pure O2 to anyone with real or suspected decompression injuries has been proven highly effective in reducing symptoms and it was the BSAC under Jim Corry's guidance that introduced O2 administration courses into the mainstream.
  • Getting lost at the surface has always been a serious hazard for divers in rough seas or strong currents and the late-deployment surface-marker buoy, complete with the duck-valve that stops it deflating at the surface, is an innovation that modern divers might take for granted. One of the first of these tested by Diver in 1993 and to find acceptance with divers was the Buddy Self-Sealing Marker Buoy. Small reels adopted from cave divers became popular for use with them.

    RIGHT: Buddy Self-Sealing Marker Buoy