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'PaceCoach' rowing computer

Date: 1990s
Dimensions:
Overall: 86 x 155 x 50 mm, 0.38 kg
Medium: Plastic, metal, electronic componentry
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Gift from Nielsen Kellerman Australia Pty Ltd
Object Name: Rowing computer
Object No: 00037236
Place Manufactured:Pennsylvania

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    Description
    This PaceCoach rowing computer was designed in the 1990s to provide feedback on rowing speed, distance covered, stroke time and stroke rate using both inboard and outboard sensors.
    SignificanceThe PaceCoach demonstrates one of the major technological developments in modern rowing. All contemporary rowing shells are now equipped with sophisticated examples of this technology.
    HistoryFitness and training have always played an important part in rowing. The early training manuals concentrated on diet, posture and descriptions of the correct stroking method.

    Rowing technology remained fairly primitive until the 1950s when Professor Frank Cotton at the University of Sydney invented the ergometer, enabling the coach to measure a rower's stroke technique and power. The development of computer technology in the 1980s and 1990s led to the sophisticated electronic equipment that dominates rowing today.

    Until the 1980s sweep oared rowing boats were coxed or 'steered' by an additional crew member called a coxswain or 'cox', who used a small megaphone to scream instructions. The coxswain often used a stopwatch to measure stroke rates and speed. Sitting in the stern of the boat facing the stroke or captain and the members of the crew, the coxswain would steer the boat by hand - strings held in each hand would pull the rudder either left or right. As the team's tactician and surrogate coach they would count the crew's stroke rate per minute, maintain a view of their boat's position in relation to other competitors during the race, and scream this information through a small megaphone attached to the head by an elastic band.

    In the late 1970s two Americans, Richard Kellerman and Paul Nielsen, created an electronic unit to simplify the coxswain’s many jobs on the river. The CoxBox, patented in 1978, combined a microphone attached to the head connected to an amplifying system through the boat and an inboard electronic display showing time, stroke rate and stroke count. Other electronic innovations for measuring boat and crew performance followed through the 1980s and 1990s.
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