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In science and engineering, a black box is a device, system or object which can be viewed solely in terms of its input, output and transfer characteristics without any knowledge of its internal workings, that is, its implementation is "opaque" (black). Almost anything might be referred to as a black box: a transistor, an algorithm, or the human mind.

The opposite of a black box is a system where the inner components or logic are available for inspection, which is sometimes known as a white box, a glass box, or a clear box.

The modern term "black box" seems to have entered the English language around 1945. The process of network synthesis from the transfer functions of black boxes can be traced to Wilhelm Cauer who published his ideas in their most developed form in 1941.[1] Although Cauer did not himself use the term, others who followed him certainly did describe the method as black-box analysis.[2] Vitold Belevitch[3] puts the concept of black-boxes even earlier, attributing the explicit use of two-port networks as black boxes to Franz Breisig in 1921 and argues that 2-terminal components were implicitly treated as black-boxes before that.

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In electronics, a sealed piece of replaceable equipment; see line-replaceable unit (LRU). In computer programming and software engineering, black box testing is used to check that the output of a program is as expected, given certain inputs.[4] The term "black box" is used because the actual program being executed is not examined. In computing in general, a black box program is one where the user cannot see its inner workings (perhaps because it is a closed source program) or one which has no side effects and the function of which need not be examined, a routine suitable for re-use. Also in computing, a black box refers to a piece of equipment provided by a vendor, for the purpose of using that vendor's product. It is often the case that the vendor maintains and supports this equipment, and the company receiving the black box typically are hands-off. In cybernetics a black box was described by Norbert Wiener as an unknown system that was to be identified using the techniques of system identification.[5] He saw the first step in Self-organization as being to be able to copy the output behaviour of a black box. In neural networking or heuristic algorithms (computer terms generally used to describe 'learning' computers or 'AI simulations') a black box is used to describe the constantly changing section of the program environment which cannot easily be tested by the programmers. This is also called a White box (software engineering) in the context that the program code can be seen, but the code is so complex that it might as well be a Black box. In finance many people trade with "black box" programs and algorithms designed by programmers.[6] These programs automatically trade users' accounts when certain technical market conditions suddenly exist (such as a SMA crossover). In physics, a black box is a system whose internal structure is unknown, or need not be considered for a particular purpose. In mathematical modelling, a limiting case. In philosophy and psychology, the school of behaviorism sees the human mind as a black box; see black box theory.[7] In neorealist international relations theory, the sovereign state is considered generally considered a black box: states are assumed to be unitary, rational, self-interested actors, and the actual decision-making processes of the state are disregarded as being largely

irrelevant. Liberal and constructivist theorists often criticize neorealism for the "black box" model, and refer to much of their work on how states arrive at decisions as "breaking open the black box". In cryptography to capture the notion of knowledge obtained by an algorithm through the execution of a cryptographic protocol such as a zero-knowledge proof protocol. If the output of the algorithm when interacting with the protocol can be simulated by a simulator that interacts only the algorithm, this means that the algorithm 'cannot know' anything more than the input of the simulator. If the simulator can only interact with the algorithm in a black box way, we speak of a black box simulator. In aviation, a "black box" (they are actually bright orange, to facilitate their being found after a crash) is an audio or data recording device in an airplane or helicopter. The cockpit voice recorder records the conversation of the pilots and the flight data recorder logs information about controls and sensors, so that in the event of an accident investigators can use the recordings to assist in the investigation. Although these devices were originally called black boxes for a different reason, they are also an example of a black box according to the meaning above, in that it is of no concern how the recording is actually made. In amateur radio the term "black box operator" is a disparaging or self-deprecating description of someone who operates factory made radios without having a good understanding of how they work. Such operators don't build their own equipment (an activity called "homebrewing") or even repair their own "black boxes".[8]

^ W. Cauer. Theorie der linearen Wechselstromschaltungen, Vol.I. Akad. VerlagsGesellschaft Becker und Erler, Leipzig, 1941. 2. ^ E. Cauer, W. Mathis, and R. Pauli, "Life and Work of Wilhelm Cauer (1900 – 1945)", Proceedings of the Fourteenth International Symposium of Mathematical Theory of Networks and Systems (MTNS2000), p4, Perpignan, June, 2000. Retrieved online 19th September 2008. 3. ^ Belevitch, V, "Summary of the history of circuit theory", Proceedings of the IRE, vol 50, Iss 5, pp848-855, May 1962. 4. ^ Black-Box Testing: Techniques for Functional Testing of Software and Systems, by Boris Beizer, 1995. ISBN 0-471-12094-4 5. ^ Cybernetics: Or the Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine, by Norbert Wiener, page xi, MIT Press, 1961, ISBN 0-262-73009-X 6. ^ "Mind as a Black Box: The Behaviorist Approach", pp 85-88, in Cognitive Science: An Introduction to the Study of Mind, by Jay Friedenberg, Gordon Silverman,

An example of a flight data recorder; the underwater locator beacon is the small cylinder on the far right. (English translation of warning message: FLIGHT RECORDER DO NOT OPEN)

Flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder

A flight data recorder (FDR) (also ADR, for accident data recorder) is an electronic device employed to record any instructions sent to any electronic systems on an aircraft. It is a device used to record specific aircraft performance parameters. Another kind of flight recorder is the cockpit voice recorder (CVR), which records conversation in the cockpit, radio communications between the cockpit crew and others (including conversation with air traffic control personnel), as well as ambient sounds. In this both functions have been combined into a single unit. The current applicable FAA TSO is C124b titled Flight Data Recorder Systems.[1] Popularly referred to as a "black box" by the media, the data recorded by the FDR is used for accident investigation, as well as for analyzing air safety issues, material degradation and engine performance. Due to their importance in investigating accidents, these ICAO-regulated devices are carefully engineered and stoutly constructed to withstand the force of a high speed impact and the heat of an intense fire. Contrary to the "black box" reference, the exterior of the FDR is coated with heat-resistant bright orange paint for high visibility in wreckage, and the unit is usually mounted in the aircraft's empennage (tail section), where it is more likely to survive a severe crash. Following an accident, the recovery of the FDR is usually a high priority for the investigating body, as analysis of the recorded parameters can often detect and identify causes or contributing factors.[2]

One of the earliest attempts to record flight data was made by François Hussenot and Paul Beaudouin in 1939 at the Marignane flight test center, France, with their "type HB" flight recorder. This was an essentially photograph-based device, because the record was made on a scrolling eight meters long by 88 milimeters wide photographic film. The latent image was made by a thin ray of light deviated by a mirror tilted according to the magnitude of the data to record (altitude, speed, etc.).[3][4] A pre-production run of 25 "HB" recorders was ordered in 1941 and HB recorders remained in use in French test centers well into the seventies[5] In 1947, Hussenot, Beaudouin and associate Marcel Ramolfo founded the Société Française d'Instruments de Mesure (SFIM) to market their design. This company went on to become a major supplier of data recorders, used not only aboard aircraft but also trains and other vehicles. SFIM is today part of the Safran group and is still present on the flight recorder market. The advantage of the film technology was that it could be easily developed afterwards and provides a durable, visual feedback of the flight parameters without needing any playback device. On the other hand, unlike magnetic bands or later flash memory-based technology, a photographic film cannot be erased and recycled, and so it must be changed periodically. As such, this technology was reserved for one-shot uses, mostly during planned test flights; and it was not mounted aboard civilian aircraft during routine commercial flights. Also, the cockpit conversation was not recorded. Another form of flight data recorder was developed in the UK during World War II. Len Harrison and Vic Husband developed a unit that could withstand a crash and fire to keep the flight data intact. This unit used copper foil as the recording medium with various styli indicating various instruments / aircraft controls which indented the copper foil. The copper foil was periodically advanced at set periods of time therefore giving a history of the instruments /control settings of the aircraft. This unit was developed at Farnborough for the Ministry of Aircraft Production. At the wars end the Ministry got Harrison and Husband to sign over their invention to them and the Ministry patented it under British patent 19330/45. This unit was the forerunner of today's black boxes being able to withstand conditions that aircrew could not.

1985 ABC news report interviewing David Warren about his invention.

The first prototype coupled FDR/CVR designed with civilian aircraft in mind, for explicit postcrash examination purposes, was produced in 1956 by Dr. David Warren of the Defence Science and Technology Organisation's Aeronautical Research Laboratories in Melbourne, Australia.[6] In 1953 and 1954, a series of fatal incidents involving the de Havilland Comet prompted the grounding of the entire fleet pending an investigation. Dr. Warren, a chemist specializing in aircraft fuels, was involved in a professional committee discussing the possible causes. Since there had been neither witnesses nor survivors, Dr. Warren conceived of a crash-survivable method to record the flight crew's conversation (and other pre-crash data), reasoning they would greatly assist in determining a cause and enabling the prevention of future, avoidable accidents of the same type. Warren published a 1954 report entitled "A Device for Assisting Investigation into Aircraft Accidents" and built a 1957 prototype FDR called "The ARL Flight Memory Unit". However, aviation authorities from around the world were largely uninterested. This changed in 1958 when Sir Robert Hardingham, the Secretary of the British Air Registration Board, visited the ARL and was introduced to Warren.

1962 ARL encoder/recorder units by Lane Sear and Wally Boswell.

The Aeronautical Research Laboratory allocated Dr. Warren an engineering team to develop the prototype to airborne stage. The team, consisting of electronics engineers Lane Sear, Wally Boswell and Ken Fraser developed a working design incorporating a fire and shockproof case, a reliable system for encoding and recording aircraft instrument readings and voice on one wire, and a ground-based decoding device. The ARL system became the "Red Egg", made by the British firm of S. Davall & Son. The "Red Egg" got its name from its shape and bright red color. In 1960, after the crash of an aircraft at Mackay (Queensland), the inquiry judge strongly recommended that flight recorders be installed in all airliners. Australia then became the first country in the world to make cockpit-voice recording compulsory.[7][8] The origin of the term "Black Box" is uncertain. One explanation comes from the early film-based design of flight data recorders, which required the inside of the recorder to be perfectly dark to prevent light leaks from corrupting the record, as in a photographer's darkroom.[9] Another explanation of the "black box" name came from a meeting about Warren's "Red Egg", when afterwards a journalist told Dr. Warren, "This is a wonderful black box." The unit itself was based on an EMI Minifon wire recorder (originally a 1950s espionage gadget from the west-German manufacterer Protona Monske) fitted into a perspex box firmly screwed together.[citation needed]

The design of today's FDR is governed by the internationally recognized standards and recommended practices relating to flight recorders which are contained in ICAO Annex 6 which makes reference to industry crashworthiness and fire protection specifications such as those to be found in the European Organisation for Civil Aviation Equipment[10] documents EUROCAE ED55, ED56 fiken A and ED112 (Minimum Operational Performance Specification for Crash Protected Airborne Recorder Systems). In the United States, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulates all aspects of U.S. aviation, and cites design requirements in their Technical Standard Order,[11] based on the EUROCAE documents (as do the aviation authorities of many other countries).

After the crash of Gol Transportes Aéreos Flight 1907, Brazilian Air Force personnel recover the flight data recorder of PR-GTD, the Boeing 737-8EH used for the flight, in the Amazon Rainforest in Mato Grosso, Brazil.

Currently, EUROCAE specifies that a recorder must be able to withstand an acceleration of 3400 g (33 km/s²) for 6.5 milliseconds. This is roughly equivalent to an impact velocity of 270 knots (310 mph) and a deceleration or crushing distance of 450 cm. Additionally, there are requirements for penetration resistance, static crush, high and low temperature fires, deep sea pressure, sea water immersion, and fluid immersion. Modern day FDRs receive inputs via specific data frames from the Flight Data Acquisition Units (FDAU). They record significant flight parameters, including the control and actuator positions, engine information and time of day. There are 88 parameters required as a minimum under current U.S. federal regulations (only 29 were required until 2002), but some systems monitor many more variables. Generally each parameter is recorded a few times per second, though some units store "bursts" of data at a much higher frequency if the data begins to change quickly. Most FDRs record approximately 17–25 hours worth of data in a continuous loop. It is required by regulations that an FDR verification check (readout) is performed annually in order to verify that all mandatory parameters are recorded. This has also given rise to flight data monitoring programs, whereby flights are analyzed for optimum fuel consumption and dangerous flight crew habits. The data from the FDR is transferred, in situ, to a solid state recording device and then periodically analyzed with some of the same

technology used for accident investigations. In other cases the data is downloaded from the aircraft's Quick Access Recorder (QAR), either by transfer to a portable solid state recording device or by direct upload to the operator's headquarters via radio or satellite. FDRs are usually located in the rear of the aircraft, typically in the tail. In this position, the entire front of the aircraft is expected to act as a "crush zone" to reduce the shock that reaches the recorder. Also, modern FDRs are typically double wrapped, in strong corrosion-resistant stainless steel or titanium, with high-temperature insulation inside. They are usually bright orange. They are designed to emit an underwater locator beacon for up to 30 days, and can operate immersed to a depth of up to 6,000 meters (20,000 ft).[12][13]

See also
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Annex: Acronyms and abbreviations in avionics Cockpit voice recorder (CVR) Quick access recorder (QAR) Black box (transportation) Data logger Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) List of unrecovered flight recorders Flight Operations Quality Assurance

A black box is any device whose workings are not understood by or accessible to its user. According to Edward Tenner, writing in The Washington Post, the first black box was a gun sight carried on World War II Flying Fortresses, with hidden components that corrected for environmental variables, such as wind speed. The crew probably didn't know how the device worked, but they knew it might be crucial to their survival. Nowadays, there are two types of black box carried on aircraft, which may be combined into a single device: a flight data recorder (FDR), which logs information such as speed and altitude, and a cockpit voice recorder (CVR), which logs all voice communication in the cockpit. These black boxes also carry beacons to help find the aircraft in a rescue situation.
A sampling of other black boxes:

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In telecommunications, a black box is a resistor connected to a phone line that makes it impossible for the telephone company's equipment to detect when a call has been answered. In data mining, a black box is an algorithm or a technology that doesn't provide an explanation of how it works. In software development, a black box is a testing method in which the tester has no knowledge of the inner workings of the program being tested. The tester might know what is input and what the expected outcome is, but not how the results are achieved. A black box component is a compiled program

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that is protected from alteration by ensuring that a programmer can only access it through an exposed interface. In film-making, a black box is a dedicated hardware device: equipment that is specifically used for a particular function. In the theatre and television, a black box is an unfurnished studio. In the financial world, a black box is a computerized trading system that does not make its rules easily available.

Perhaps because the metaphor is broadly applicable, black box is sometimes used to refer to anything that works without its inner workings being understood or accessible for understanding. On May 31, 2009 Air France flight 447 disappeared someplace over the Atlantic Ocean with 228 people aboard and with that a search began, not just for survivors, but the important Black boxes. An aircraft's Black Box is in fact orange and, depending on the plane, there may be two of them. The box, or boxes, record two streams of data. There is the Cockpit Voice Recorders (CVR) and Flight Data Recorders (FDR). The boxes have been part of civil aviation since the 1950's. For many years the data was recorded on 1/4 inch magnetic tape but newer boxes are all digital and can record far more numerous data streams and record them for longer periods. Today's recorders are made to withstand brutal sudden impacts, intense fire temperatures, and the crushing pressures of deep ocean depths. each recorder has a Underwater Locator Beacon (ULB) that transmits a signal at 37.5 KHz so the box can be found if it is submersed in water. The ULB is strong enough to be located under 14,000 feet of water. The Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) requires most commercial aircraft (those flying paying passengers) and many private and corporate aircraft to have functioning CVRs and FDRs on board. The recorders are used to reconstruct the flight of a plane before a crash. In the event of a crash one of the top priorities after saving lives is the recovery of the CVR and the FDR. If and when found the recorders are sent directly to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) head office in Washington, D.C. where advanced computer and audio tools are used to extract the data from the boxes so that the Investigator-in-Charge and the Safety Board can make a determination as to why the plane went down. The Cockpit Voice Recorder records not just voices but all the sounds made within the cockpit. By listening to conversations between people on the flight deck and conversations between the flight crew and cabin crew, ground crew, airport tower, and Air Traffic Control, investigators can determine what the cockpit crew was doing and thinking up to the time of the crash. Because all cockpit sounds, not just conversations, are recorded investigators can find other clues to what happened before a crash. Things like a change in engine sound, a change in overall noise, audible equipment warnings, and odd or unexpected noises can all provide vital clues that may identify why a plane went down. Because of the personal nature of the information recorded by the CVR an order of Congress prevents the release of any CVR recording to anyone but investigators. A team made up of representatives of the NTSB, the FAA, the operator of the aircraft, the manufacturer of the airplane, the manufacturer of the engines, and the pilots union all listen to the tapes and jointly agree to an official transcript that will be released for general use.

The latest Flight Data Recorders are required by law to record 88 key parameters of flight such as altitude, attitude, and speed. Some FDRs record more the 1000 aspects of the plane on the ground and in flight. Used together the FDR and the CVR can help investigators find the cause of a crash, and more importantly, make recommendations that may prevent a future disaster. When a plane goes down, one of the first things safety investigators do is search for its black box recorder, which can provide a valuable starting point for determining what went wrong. It’s an essential tool, and it’s come a long way from the boxy recorders of the 1950s. First off, the black box isn’t black – it’s painted bright orange so that it’s easier to locate at a crash site. And in most cases it’s actually two boxes: one for voice communication and the other for data. The cockpit voice recorder (CVR) is fairly straightforward – it collects sounds from the microphones, earphones and an area recorders mounted on the roof of a cockpit, storing two hours of audio with a sturdy digital recorder that’s less susceptible to moisture and heat than the magnetic tape recorders of yesteryear (before that, wire recorders were used). CVRs are battery powered so that they’ll operate even if a plane’s electrical system is shot.

A flight data recorder (FDR) performs the same function, except that it measures data on various aspects of a plane’s performance. A device called a flight data acquisition unit gathers and preprocesses information about 88 different performance parameters and sends snapshots of that data to the FDR for storage. Updated info is collected every few seconds, though that frequency bumps up if a plane seems to be in trouble. A broken or lost recorder is useless, which is why modern models are built to last. International standards require that voice and data recorders are able to withstand high-temperature fires, salt water immersion, deep sea pressure, and impact velocity of 270 knots. CVRs and FDRs are covered with thick insulation and a steel or titanium shell, and many are designed to self-eject from a plane at the moment of impact. Others are equipped with emergency location devices, and they’re always located in an aircraft’s tail section, where they’re less likely to be crushed by the direct impact of a crash. Data recorders are most often associated with tragedy, but they don’t have to be. Today, the same information studied by investigators to determine the cause of a crash is sometimes used to measure such things like fuel efficiency and crew behavior.

Speaking of crew behavior, pilots have aggressively opposed moves by the the National Transportation Safety Board to take things up a notch by installing comprehensive image recorders that would show cockpit conditions. They say it constitutes a Big Brother-style privacy violation. It may be that cockpit recorders disappear altogether in the future. Technology that transmits an aircraft’s voice and data to hardware on the ground is already being used by NASA, and may become more common moving forward.