Technology & History

 

“GBK-PACER” – THE FIRST EQUIPMENT

The forerunner of this “Pacer2Swim” was successfully developed back in 1993  and was then called “GBK-PACER”. This is was the first sports cadencer developed specifically for three major sports: swimming, running and oval-cycling. It was built and sold by “GBK-Electronics” GBK-Logo (1993-2001) to just a few swimming clubs and also some sports departments of Universities/Institutes. This is was the world’s very first swimming cadencer with flexible workout programming possibilities (swimming workout/test algorithms, including FMAP and VO2max tests).

Derived from financial difficulties, “GBK-Electronics” finally closed the project back in 2001. During normal coaching activities and University research tests, this equipment received highest praises from both top national record-holding swimmers and Universities alike. Back then, António Granjeia, Gustavo Basto and Pedro Kulzer were the three Engineers, ex-swimmers and swimming sports lovers (having themselves swam and coached in the nationally praised and high-ranked GALITOS/CGA club in Portugal) that gave birth to this former “GBK-Pacer”. This equipment may still be found working after more than 10 years of operation, at the following premises, while others have an unknown status.

CGA (Clube dos Galitos de Aveiro, Portugal, on Wikipedia, featuring the great Diogo Carvalho, one of Portugal’s best Olympic swimmers of all time)

UTAD (Universidade de Trás-os-Montes e Alto-Douro, Portugal)

FADEUP  (Faculdade de Desporto e Educação Física da Universidade do Porto, Portugal, featuring Prof. Dr. João Paulo Vilas-Boas and Dr. Ricardo Fernandes)

The very extensive scientific work and respective publications done with the use of this first “GBK-Pacer” and its extraordinary and astonishingly long longevity can be found here.

Some old images from this former “GBK-Pacer” equipment can also still be found in our archives and viewed here for your convenience:

GBK-Electronics webpage

Old GBK-Electronics webpage

"GBK-Pacer" manual cover

“GBK-Pacer” manual cover

"GBK-Pacer" manual cover

“GBK-Pacer” manual inner cover

"GBK-Pacer" manual images

“GBK-Pacer” manual images

"GBK-Pacer" manual images

“GBK-Pacer” manual images

"GBK-Pacer" manual images

“GBK-Pacer” manual images

Included workout methods

Included workout methods

GBK-Pacer console

GBK-Pacer console

Original Keyboard

Original “telephone” style Keyboard

Menus Structure

Original partial Menus Structure

Start-Horn with Digits

Start-Horn with Digits

Pacer lights

Pacer lights

GBK-Pacer Downloader

GBK-Pacer Downloader

GBK-Pacer PCB

GBK-Pacer CPU PCB

GBK-Pacer CPU Schematic

GBK-Pacer CPU Schematic

CPU

CPU

EEPROM

EEPROM

Internal Memory structure

Internal Memory structure

Batteries

Batteries

 

Here is a glimpse of this early patentable technology that appeared long before many other patents were made (back in 1993), as well as quite heavily differing from them in terms of the already then very advanced details envisioned by us at that early time. The original “GBK-PACER” was developed as a hobby between 1993 and 1996 and first sold in 1998. It was not a copy of any existing or in the meanwhile appearing pacer whatsoever, while also never being copied by others due to its effective software and hardware copy-protections, thus being a totally new and innovative system back then and still now after some 20 years! Basically, the newer PACER2SWIM assumed almost all of the exact same technologies as developed and thouroghly documented back then. This complete technology presented herein is 100% proprietary by former GBK-Electronics and now KulzerTEC.  Several important and patenteable-grade innovations were introduced with this system, some of which being the following:

  • It was the very first swimming pacer using LEDs as the lights to be followed by the swimmer. Before the GBK-PACER there were only brittle and low-light incandescent light-bulb based systems around. The GBK-PACER came to change this to the better with high-brightness LEDs that would last a lifetime. Classical light-bulb systems would render their lights broken until too many broken ones would render the entire lane virtually useless. In the few systems sold back then, only 2 lights of a total of about 100 lights were broken (dimmed). One of the systems had only one broken light after about 14 years of continuous and intensive use!
  • The cabling was first in the world: instead of the classical huge flat-cable or huge multi-conductor cables (one wire per light or binary codings), the GBK-PACER used only a tiny 3 wire commercial telephone ISDN cable to communicate with all its lights and do all the necessary ON/OFF, blinking, entire lane resetting, etc. Classical systems use many lines to address the lights, as well as extra lines for resetting, blinking and even clocking them correctly. The secret to be able to use such an electrically weak cable (but cheap) was to optimize the lights to work with extremely low voltages (as low as 2V5), so that the input 5V would still arrive at the last of 51 lights in a 50m-lane. More modern micro-processor controlled light strips (mainly from China and other sources) always use 4 wires and totally different protocols.
  • Each individual light contains some highly secret and patent-grade logic circuitry, necessary to decode the data signals arriving over the single data-wire. This was an innovative advancement as well, since all other solutions were using multiple wires to address the lights, using simple direct-wire or binary decoding logic. But contrary to all patented and more modern light-strips appearing after this GBK-PACER, our lighs never used micro-controllers or such. Our circuit is a highly clever, top-secret and cheap logic solution composed by two ultra-cheap logic integrated circuits and some passive components around them, nothing more. These lights do not contain any CPUs, processors or addressing of any kind. All of the modern LED-based light-strip pacing equipment patents are based on some sort of complex processing/CPUs with additional individual lights’ addressing. Our lights contain a very clever circuit that allows them to operate as desired, without all that complexity and hassle. This further allows to reduce production costs, since all light modules are thus kept strictly identical. Furthermore, they operate always, need no firmware update and will never fail during their normal lifetime. Finally, these lights are completely tolerant to short-circuits and even polarity reversals, etc. They were designed to resist to all normal kinds of electrical and mechanical abuses, being virtually indestructible, contrary to most of the commercial and specific pacing light-cablings existing today. These lights were a technological advancement in 1993 and even still are now! They even still use similar yellow high-brightness LEDs, as the GBK-Pacer did.
  • The light brightness is controlled individually inside each light through a sophisticated “digital current source”: instead of the normal analog current-sources, a much more stable and efficient digital counterpart was used. This circuit has been kept highly secret, since it represents a breakthrough in terms of keeping the brightness constant along all 51 lights of the longest 50m lane. It was also successfully used for the 400m running track lane to keep the speaker sound volume constant all over it. This also patent-grade circuit has been perfected and there is no similar circuit to be found elsewhere.
  • The problem of the length of the light cabling is simply solved through a standard and straightforward rolling-up solution. The roller contains the complete 50m lights cable, whereas the coach may chose between unrolling only the first 25m for 25m pools or, in addition and with the exact same equipment, to unroll the complete 50m for a 50m pool. This method already allowed coaches to buy the longer (50m) version, while being able to also use it for shorter 25m pools without any extra compatibilization costs, hassles or plugs whatsoever. Furthermore, the lights’ lane and the roller are of small and ultra light-weight proportions, unlike virtually all other solutions.
  • The GBK-PACER already incorporated the most sophisticated timing and distance corrections/compensations functionalities, and still does! There is no pacer whatsoever with even similar correction/compensation methods out there. All in all, these methods give the coach full freedom to quickly and highly effectively correct and compensate for swimmers’ timing imperfections, mistakes and any other situations that require some re-positioning of the pacing lights. Examples: starts, turns, hits against other swimmers, slowing down for whatever reason, swimming quicker than expected, stopping to re-position the goggles or talk to the coach, etc.  This is all done right in the middle of a task and may be used anytime with almost no restrictions whatsoever. The internal highly advanced and flexible timing engine will then account for all changes made and will keep the final timing the same or just extend or shorten it, all according to the current optional settings. These timing corrections and compensations are done manually or automatically, depending o the exact situations.
  • Finally, the highly developed and flexible pre-programmed swimming algorithms leave no desire open to the coach or academic researcher. These algorithms can be used for both normal training and even for race-simulations alike. They are highly sophisticated in terms of all the timing compensations that need to be taken into account, as those within starts, turns and corrections.

Patenting of this GBK-PACER was never an important issue precisely due to fact that the secrets inside this equipment were better and more efficiently kept with sophisticated and clever built-in software and hardware protection mechanisms. Furthermore, the lights’ circuits were kept secret and simultaneously water-tight through special untamperable 2-component filling materials that would destroy the inner electronics completely, in case of intended tampering. Another reason was to keep prices in a reasonable range. Despite prices reflecting the still low market penetration rate and inherent cost of the used high-quality and durable components and matetials, these values would be much higher with the patenting thing. We opted to not patent and give coaches the opportunity to buy the best pacer equipment there is still today.

The new PACER2SWIM equipment uses most of the GBK-PACER’s secret circuitry, such as the digital current-sources and the communications through the still equally tiny cabling. The software and the training methods were also completely transposed from the GBK-Pacer into the new PACER2SWIM equipment, but now with better display, keyboard and feedback LEDs. The console is fairly a straightforward construct and non-secret electronic circuitry, whereas only the software has the highest value.

Furthermore, the whole development and production path of the earlier GBK-Pacer, as well as of this newer PACER2SWIM is very well documented, both with classical log-books (right from 1993 on), photographs and even many remaining replacement parts. This would also allow any patent dispute to be settled easily in favor of this equipment. On the other hand, the secret circuitry and protocol continues to be well protected by the intrinsic way it is built. This is the reason why still no patents have been requested or issued for this line of pacing equipment: there is no need at all for any of that costly and timely hassle. What’s best: once you use this PACER2SWIM once, you will want to use it always, and no other!

 

 

SOME OF THE ORIGINAL LEGACY GBK-PACER TEXTS (as well as some PACER2SWIM additions):

The Training of Cadence - The training using cadence techniques (pacing) it is very known of trainers and of athletes, being their advantages and effectiveness an acquired die. To use techniques of mechanical and automated pacing is a concept that, not being new, it comes to allow a better acting on the part of the athlete, because this acquires a constant monitoring of his own effort in the training, freeing his trainer for other aspects of the monitoring of the training that are also important, such as the technicalities.

The Theory - The theory is to provide the athlete a feedback sign, that he recognizes and that it allows to evaluate himself and to monitor his performance during a task of the training, in simple constant and efficient way. An object or a light, moving to the speed wanted inside of the athlete’s visual field, allows to have an immediate feedback of his acting. Many systems have been developed using sound or lights and establishing diverse relationships as, for instance, the stroke cadence. However, these systems have weaknesses, because it is more important than the athlete knows the correct displacement in the swimming pool and the one that speed moves, that knowledge the stroke cadence in a certain period of time. This space positioning in the swimming pool in function of the time is the advantage of the system of pacing of lights GBK as we will present further on. Another important advantage, links with the possibility that this method checks, of could help to program and to adjust the speeds, from long distances to the shortest ones. Like this, it is easy to notice that this method allows to the trainer to explain and to rehearse with the athlete the cadence he to finds to be the more correct in a given test.

The System and the Theory - A line of lights constitutes the system that light sequentially in agreement with the intended speed. For the athlete, the value of this system becomes evident: the athlete that accompanies the rhythm of the lights has an immediate feedback of his training without having to wait for the end of the series to know his time, nor to have to be with too much attention to the coach gestures. He knows that to get to accompany the lights will accomplish the programmed mark. In psychological terms it is an excellent reinforcement for the athlete that he can concentrate much more in himself. It also makes possible the trainer to concentrate in aspects more technicians of the training, leaving the details of the pacing for the GBK Pacing system. The application of this system to the training, allowing yours controls and adjust even during the training task in process, it can be a priceless help for to coach and an exceptional motivation for the athlete, for besides allowing to individualize many of the training tasks to each athlete’s needs.

The GBK-Pacer System - The GBK-Pacer system is constituted by one console of operation and in the maximum until 4 lines of lights for 4 different tracks. After programming all of the parameters of the wanted cadence, the athlete feels the departure and the lights will move to the speed wanted in each segment of the task of the training, from the start, going by the normal segments of swim, to the turns and on-line adjustments during the swim In the athletics they don’t exist the turns concept.

The Pacer-2 System - This Pacer-2 system is constituted by one console of operation and one single lane of lights. After programming all of the parameters of the wanted cadence, the athlete feels the departure and the lights will move to the speed wanted in each segment of the task of the training, from the start, going by the normal segments of swim, to the turns and on-line adjustments during the swim. In athletics there doesn’t exist the turns concept.

The Training Methods - The GBK-Pacer system includes advanced software to programming varied training methods. For besides allowing the insert of the most varied parameters of the task to accomplish, it still allows the whole type of adjustments during the execution of that same task. To have an idea of the existent training methods, here comes a summary, with examples of illustrations practical applications.

The Workout Methods - The Pacer-2 system includes advanced and unique software to programming varied training methods. For besides allowing the insert of the most varied parameters of the task to accomplish, it still allows a whole range of adjustments during the execution of that same task. Existing workout methods:  Normal Series, Fartlek, Pyramid, Break-Ok, Progressive, Negative-Split, Race, FMAP, as well as some “T” tests such as  Test10/20/30/1000/1500/2000. Other swimming pacers usually do not have these prepared data input mechanisms, therefore requiring extensive and tiresome input of times for all desired lanes independently.

The Correction Mechanisms - The Pacer-2 system includes advanced and unique correction mechanisms: “Start&Go” (synchronising the lights with the swimmer right after the start/jump), “Turn&Go” (synchronising the lights with the swimmer right after a turn), “Catch&Go” (synchronising the lights with the swimmer by waiting or antecipating a certain amount of time or lights) and the usual Start/Stop and Pause actions. The coach can also turn the lights off momentarily if he wishes. Other swimming pacers usually do not have any of these correction mechanisms, so that there is basically no possibility of keeping the pace exactly synchronized with the swimmer, therefore potentially losing all its effectiveness.

 

 

In a clear perspective of INNOVATION, the GBK-Pacer constitutes an equipment of cadence work “par excellence”, offering a varied range of functionality that allow any trainer to accomplish trainings and tests in an extremely flexible and innovative way. For some types of tests such as VO2max tests, the employment this equipment turns even out to be unavoidable.

The main innovation of the GBK-Pacer consists on the multitude of manipulation possibilities that are of supreme importance during cadence trainings, such as acquisition of the lights after jump (“Pass & Go” synchronization), reacquisition of the lights after delay or even excess of speed (static “Just-in-time” correction), and synchronization of the lights at the moment of turn (“Turn-Sync” synchronization). “Pass & Go” allows to start the lights exactly where the swimmer emerges after the jump. “Just-in-time” adjustment allows to adjust for brief swimmer mistakes. “Turn-Sync” synchronization allows the coach to synchronize, whenever necessary, the lights with the swimmer, at the exact moment of the turn. Time differences are automatically compensated on the pre-adjusted time. These mechanisms allow the coach to make corrections of the swimming pace along time, without having to stop and restart the whole task, as was previously the case, turning swimming pacing extremely efficient. These mechanisms also apply fully to the other sports such as Athletics and Oval-Cycling (enhanced “Multi-Sport” version only).

The GBK-Pacer also innovates in that it contains the most used training methods as a template for the coach to enter its timing data. The range of timings and distances are virtually unlimited, since the methods offer maximums of 99x4000m in the various series, repetitions and segments. The GBK-Pacer also innovates in that it allows fully individual control of up to 4(four) tracks. The GBK-Pacer allows for full control of 25/50m pools and for 100/400m tracks. Battery autonomy constitutes another breakthrough allowing pacing operation to last up to 5 hours in normal portable conditions. Finally, the lights used in the cables are made up from LEDs that have a virtually unlimited life and are also mechanically almost unbreakable, thus leading to a very long lifetime of the GBK-Pacer equipment as a whole.

The start horn gives the start sounds, while also informing the swimmers of the distances and times of the tasks, thus enhancing the feedback given to the swimmers. Some extra tools such as a “Chronograph” and a “Stroke rate counter” round up this GBK-Pacer equipment in terms of flexibility and usability as described until here. Applicability of the GBK-Pacer extends from disabled and elderly people to competition athletes all-around, since possible timings ranges are huge and allow to coach this wide range of athletes without any problems or limitations.

 

The workout methods and correction mechanisms are the most innovative aspects of this Pacer-2 system, directly inherited from the forerunner “GBK-Pacer”. Besides this, a new remote-control, a new and larger/brighter display, a much better keyboard, the left-side row of LEDs representing the real pacing going on inside the pool, as well as the better external speaker system with digits, also add to the current innovation of this new Pacer-2 equipment. An improved battery life-time of up to 12 hours (high-capacity version) has also been added to this new Pacer-2.

The start horn gives the start sounds, while also informing the swimmers of the distances and times of the tasks, thus enhancing the feedback given to the swimmers. Some extra tools such as a “Chronograph” and a “Stroke rate counter” round up this Pacer-2 equipment in terms of flexibility and usability as described until here. Applicability of the Pacer-2 extends from disabled and elderly people to competition athletes all-around, since possible timings ranges are huge and allow to coach this wide range of athletes without any problems or limitations.

 

 

To get a better idea of the possible timing and distance ranges of the GBK-Pacer, please consider the following table:

 

Some more original GBK-PACER legacy pictures:

IMG_0384 IMG_0385 IMG_0386 IMG_0387 IMG_0388 IMG_0389 IMG_0390 IMG_0391 IMG_0392 IMG_0393 IMG_0394 IMG_0395 IMG_0396 IMG_0397 IMG_0398 IMG_0402 IMG_0401 IMG_0400
- Original GBK-Pacer console prototype
- Original GBK-Pacer lights-lane prototype
- Original thorn appart GBK-Pacer
- Original Replacement parts
- Original user’s manual from 2000
- Some of the hundreds of logbook pages (low resolution on purpose)
- Still working original lights-lane

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