The plastic model of PADI’s eRDPML – the electronic version of the Multilevel Recreational Dive Planner known as ‘the wheel’ – is to be retired in favour of the digital training aid, which has been available for some time as an eLearning asset, and lately as an app for smart devices.
The original eRDP was introduced in 2005 as an electronic update to the table version of the famous PADI/DSAT Recreational Dive Planner – the RDP – which first appeared in 1987. The eRDPML followed in 2008.
While the RDP table was a game-changer for recreational diving, providing much longer repetitive dives after shorter surface intervals than the long-standing US Navy tables, the eRDP was less enthusiastically received by many recreational instructors.
There had been some prior anticipation that the eRDP would extend the tables to allow for a greater range of depth calculations – out of necessity limited by the physical size of the printed versions – however this was not to be the case. The eRDP was limited to the same square profile calculations as the RDP table, and the eRDPML to the same, three-stage multilevel calculations as the wheel.
With their release coinciding with the rise in availability of relatively inexpensive dive computers, the eRDP and eRDPML – at least in some instructors’ opinions – acquired the unfortunate moniker of ‘glorified calculators’. Except they didn’t function as calculators and, rather disappointingly, they weren’t waterproof. Although the eRDP and eRDPML became required materials during Divemaster and Instructor Development Courses, a lot of instructors chose to stick with the printed table when teaching students. Once the use of dive computers was added as an option to Open Water course teaching standards, the use of tables for training, in general, started to wane.
Although it’s tempting to mock the terribly colour-schemed devices with their uncomfortably shrill and high-pitched beeping noises, the overall value of the PADI/DSAT tables for recreational diving cannot be underestimated. The multilevel wheel is a masterpiece of design engineering, even if its electronic counterpart was a little lacking. Had the eRDPML been released ten years earlier, it would have been a must-have piece of kit for many recreational divers – as long as they had a dry bag to keep it in.
Much as the digital versions remain available for training, seeing the little blue box of the eRDPML retire – at least for this instructor – feels a bit like bidding farewell to an old friend that you didn’t particularly get on with, but were fond of nevertheless.