For the most part, fishfinders look straight down. That might be fine when your boat is sitting still, but it can prove disastrous while moving forward. At least that’s what Charles Hicks, CEO of Interphase Technologies, thought.
So, Hicks started his firm in 1987 in Santa Cruz, California, with the idea of making marine sonar devices that look forward. He borrowed his technology from the medical ultrasound industry.
Instead of using downward-looking transducers that send vibrations through a single ceramic element, Interphase uses eight elements arranged in an array. By using wave physics to microscopically alter times when sonic waves are emitted from each element, beams of sound are “steered” without moving a single part.
Hicks compares his device to the sweep of radar. This fishfinder is directed wherever you want it to look.
One product from Interphase is an item that they simply call a “black box.” Depending on the transducer, this device guides forward-looking sonic beams either vertically or horizontally. Each beam is 12 degrees wide and sweeps through a 90-degree area. An only vertical or only horizontal unit is less expensive than the “black box” that sweeps both ways. A large flat screen is connected to this device, enabling viewing. A remote keypad is also attached.
A digital version made by Interphase produces sweeps 500 times faster than the analog “black box.” Unfortunately, it costs about two to four times more than the analog version.
The obvious advantage that you get with an Interphase fishfinder is that you can see not only below your boat, but also ahead of it.
So, if you’re navigating through rock outcroppings, around sharp rock pinnacles, near coral reefs or next to ice bergs, this sonar device is ideal for taking your vessel through dangerous waters. It’s a perfect companion when you’re navigating into unknown or uncharted territory.
An additional plus is with this technology is that you can scan vast areas of water in search of concentrated schools of fish.
Targets off both the starboard and port bows can be detected without you scaring the fish away. The finder can be rigged with external alarms, giving you notice when something is detected. Both range and depth amounts are presented on the screen upon the detection of one fish or a school of fish. If you wish, you can connect an optional camera to monitor another part of your boat, such as the engine room.
Unfortunately, poor economic times hindered Interphase from developing and manufacturing other models. A double-whammy hit Charles Hicks in 2010, when his wife of 33 years and cofounder of Interphase, Sharon Hicks, died. Good news came two years later, when Charles Hicks remarried and on February 14th, Valentine’s Day, Garmin announced that it was acquiring Interphase Technologies. Garmin is a worldwide producer of Global Positioning System (GPS) devices, including fishfinders.
Garmin retained Hicks and his employees and renamed Interphase’s California-based operation Garmin Santa Cruz. Speculation in the marine press is that Garmin will combine their research and development with the forward-looking knowledge of Interphase to develop a new family of sonar devices for the marine world.
Interphase fishfinders are still sold worldwide, and international dealers for Interphase are listed on the Interphase website at www.interphase-tech.com. But, if you navigate your browser to the Interphase online store through the Interphase website, you’re taken to the Garmin website.
If you buy a new Interphase fishfinder right now, chances are high that you’re purchasing one of the last of its kind. Chances are also high that you’re getting a good product. It’s equally likely similar products will soon be available through Garmin.