Black box (transportation)

Black box (transportation)

The term black box is a placeholder name used casually, often by journalists, to refer to a collection of several different recording devices used in transportation: the flight recorders (flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder) in aircraft, the event recorder in railway diesel locomotives, the event data recorder in automobiles and other recording devices in various vehicles. Black box is also a term used in physics and electronics to describe a mechanism in which the input and expected outputs are well understood but whose internal operations are deliberately and completely unknown, but this has no special connection with recording devices.


The "black box" term originated when after a meeting about the first commercial flight recorder named the "Red Egg" for its colour and shape, someone commented: "This is a wonderful black box". Black box is a more humorous than accurate term and is almost never used within the flight safety industry.Fact|date=September 2008 The recorders are generally not black in colour, but usually bright orange as pictured, as they are often intended to be spotted and recovered after incidents, nor are their operations unknown.

An alternative origin of the word is from World War II RAF terminology. During the period 1940-1945 new electronic innovations, such as Oboe, GEE and H2S, were added to aircraft (specifically bombers) on a regular basis. The prototypes were roughly covered in hand-made metal boxes, painted black to prevent reflections. After a time any piece of "new" electronics was referred to as the "box-of-tricks" or the "black-box". An expression that made its way into post-war civil aviation and ultimately, general usage.

ee also

*Train event recorder
*Voyage Data Recorder

External links

* [ ABC TV (Australia) Dr David Warren interview transcript 2003]
* [ ABC TV (Australia) Dr David Warren interview transcript 2002]

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