Saturday, February 18, 2012

Vintage Scuba equipment; the Suunto SME-ML Dive Computer

Vintage Scuba equipment; the Suunto SME-ML Dive Computer

Another oldie but golden and a great addition to my 'Vintage scuba equipment' collection! It's been just over 10 days since I wrote about Chris' SOS Automatic Decompression meter and since I like these vintage dive equipment accessories, here's a report on one of the first Suunto computers; the SME-ML.


It's hard to imagine, but dive computers did not exist 15 years ago. Up until the first reliable multi-level dive computer appeared in the late eighties, a diver had to rely on the U.S. Navy dive tables or similar tables. Dive tables were originally designed for divers who were going to dive to a single depth, stay at the depth the entire dive, and return directly to the surface. The dive tables may have worked fine for a Navy salvage diver, but a recreational diver's depth varies throughout the dive. The recreational diver needed a device that could recalculate no-decompression time on the fly while diving, and calculate available no-decompression times for future dives while on the surface.

Fortunately, advances in microchips, sensors, and other electronic components made it economically feasible to
build affordable recreational dive computers. At the same time, some of the brightest decompression scientists had developed decompression algorithms that could be programmed into a microchip. Hence, the dive computer
was born. Suunto's SME-ML was one of the original dive computers ever made, and there are many still in service today!

The SME and ML models were wrist mounted although early computers were not Nitrox capable back in those days, that was something for the next range of dive computer models.

The SME was unique in that it worked the US Navy dive tables exactly as one would experience them if using a standard depth gauge and timer however The SME/ML added the multi-level capability that has been standard on every computer since then.
The SME series has not been in production for years now. As a typical Suunto however, battery change can not and should not done by yourself, although it may be hard nowadays to find somebody who can change your battery, there are still places out there that offer this service.

It's odd that I keep bumping into all these vintage Suunto computers, the SMI and the Solution and my own EON. So far I've only used Suunto dive computers except for a short stint with a Mares Nemo wide. I really enjoy finding all the Suunto computers though and hope I will be lucky enough to find plenty of more vintage scuba equipment.

Once more, many thanks to Chris!

Camille

7 comments:

Walter Soldani said...

I do not know if you are still reading this but I am a new diver, and being that I am going to school to be an electronic engineer I share your love of the old computers. Now I have an Orca Phoenix, a Omni pro duo (I know not that old), and I am in the process of getting two suunto SME-ML. Something about the way thing where done back then makes you feel a little safer.

Camille said...

Hi Walter,

Good luck with them. I would also look into a few newer models that are available nowadays.

Mark said...

Dear Camille,
I have a vintage dive computer just like the one on your web site.

Can you scan the user manual in and send it to me?

Camille said...

Hi Mark,

Thanks for your message. It was not my dive computer, but somebody else’s, so I don’t have the user manual. Did you try to find it on Google or similar search engines?

Mark said...

Thanks Camille,
I have tried to look everywhere, but I will just keep looking. Seems to be a decent computer if I can figure out how to use it.

Thanks for your time

Camille said...

Hi Mark,

Did you ever consider contacting Suunto directly?

Mark said...

I will try that.
I looked on their web site for manual but they did not seem to have anything that old.

Thank you.
Mark