Bob Hollis took up scuba diving in the late 1950’s when recreational diving was still in its infancy. His love for diving soon led to a keen interest in underwater photography, a hobby that required him to create his own specialized equipment. With a degree in mechanical engineering, it was natural for Hollis to start designing and manufacturing underwater camera and strobe housings in the machine shop behind the Anchor Shack, the retail sporting goods store he’d opened in Hayward, California in 1965. Before long, divers and others were asking Hollis to make equipment for them, and a successful mail order business was begun.
In 1972, Hollis founded American Underwater Products, doing business as Oceanic. The company started out with a dozen diving products, including the Anchor Shack’s photo line. After four years, Hollis took a big leap forward when he acquired Farallon, a manufacturer in nearby Belmont. That acquisition instantly gave Oceanic a full line of diving equipment, with an innovative line of instrumentation products. “I saw digital instrumentation as the key to the future of diving,” explains Hollis. “Divers need to quickly and accurately calculate many variables, such as their depth, safe dive times, and decompression requirements to avoid the bends.” After the acquisition, Oceanic went to work researching and developing radically new instruments.
In 1981, the company introduced the DataMax, the first mechanical depth gauge with automatic digital timer. The product was an instant hit and propelled Oceanic to the forefront of dive equipment suppliers. In the early 1980s, Hollis helped introduce the concept of an electronic dive computer to the industry. These sophisticated instruments track, calculate, and display a wealth of critical information for divers, including dive time and depth, ascent rate, air consumption, nitrogen absorption, and other essential information needed to dive safely. The dive computer revolutionized diving safety and is considered a mandatory piece of equipment for all divers.