Boating Tips DIGITAL INSTRUMENTS DELIVER DAZZLING DATA Posted 12/18/2009 Computerized Digital Instrumentation Sends Ancient Analog Devices to Antique Attic Most fuel-injected marine engines made in the past decade are controlled by a cutting-edge on-board computer for maximum power and efficiency; however the industry's "standard" instrumentation – the gauges at the helm – are often analog devices that haven't changed (or improved) appreciably for over a half-century. An analog gauge is kind of like grandpa's pocket watch – it gets the job done via internal mechanisms, but isn't particularly durable, may not be overly accurate, and is typically limited to displaying a handful of information. Digital instruments are more akin to digital watches (OK, technically, a digital watch is a digital instrument): they have few moving parts, thus fewer opportunities for problems; they're computer-driven, making digital gauges amazingly precise, and this is the coolest part: one multi-function digital instrument can display seemingly dozens of readouts – automatically and accurately. Doing More with Digital On most boats, dashboard real estate is at a premium, with a finite amount of space for instrumentation, so what we usually end up with is a basic analog gauge package that tells us the essentials (speed, tachometer, fuel, volts) and not much else. This where digital instruments can really add value to your boat, especially at repower time. In a Yamaha-powered boat, (pre-rigged/re-rigged for a Yamaha digital system) dropping in a couple of Yamaha's Command Link® multi-function digital gauges can upgrade the helm station immensely. In the same space as the boat builder's budget analog gauges, you can have the functionality of upwards of 60 display options (depending on the engines, sending units, and instruments). Each display is customizable to show you the info you most often use, with the other data readily available at the push of a button. Simplification vs. Electrical Anarchy Traditional analog gauges require individual sending units for each instrument, as well as the need to run wires through the boat's nether regions from the sending unit to the dashboard. The wires are then fastened to the back of the instrument with brass nuts, with the connections somewhat exposed to the elements, increasing the risks of corrosion, short-circuits, and other bothersome electrical problems. A boat rigged with digital instrumentation uses a self-contained wiring bundle with weather-resistant connectors placed strategically along the bundle. The techy terminology for this arrangement is LAN – a local area network – very similar to a computer network in your home or office. Yamaha's Command Link® LAN system starts at the engine's computer (ECU), connects to multi-terminal hubs to pick up data from the various sensors throughout the boat, and ends at a hub near the helm station, where the instruments, ignition switch(es), and other electronics tie into the LAN. I t's not as complicated as it sounds, and the Command Link® LAN system can eliminate hundreds of feet of wiring and an untold number of mechanical connections, substantially reducing the possibility of problems in your boat's electrical system – in this case, simple is good. Wanna know more? Browse on over to /outboard/commandLink/page01.aspx for even more info about this super-slick technology.