black box

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black box

1. a self-contained unit in an electronic or computer system whose circuitry need not be known to understand its function
2. an informal name for flight recorder
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Black Box


(in Russian, chernyi iashchik), an object of study whose internal structure either is unknown or is too complex for any conclusions about the behavior of the object to be drawn on the basis of the properties of the object’s elements or on the basis of the structure of the connections between the elements. In Russian, the term chernyi iashchik is also used to refer to the method of studying such objects.

The black-box method is used in cases where an outside observer knows only the input to an object and the object’s response; in such cases, the processes occurring within the object are unknown. The study of a multiterminal network whose internal circuitry is unknown provides a very simple example of the use of the black-box method. By observing the behavior of such an object for a sufficiently long time and, if necessary, by carrying out active experiments on the object (that is, by changing the input in some specific manner), a level of knowledge about the properties of the object may be achieved such that changes in the object’s behavior in response to any given input may be predicted. However, no matter how thoroughly the behavior of a black box is studied, an unambiguous conclusion about the internal structure of the object cannot be reached, since the same behavior may be characteristic of different objects.

The black-box method is widely used to solve problems in the modeling of controlled systems—for example, in the study of integrated systems—especially in cases where the behavior rather than the structure of a system is of interest.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

black box

[′blak ‚bäks]
Any component, usually electronic and having known input and output, that can be readily inserted into or removed from a specific place in a larger system without knowledge of the component's detailed internal structure.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

black box

black boxclick for a larger image
A typical recording of an earlier version of flight data recorder (FDR). Modern FDRs can record many more parameters.
black box
A typical flight data recorder/voice recorder. These are colored orange.
i. The generic name given to crash data recorders and voice data recorders. Although called black boxes, they are orange. They can withstand very high temperatures and high impact.
ii. Any unit, usually an electronic or avionic device such as an amplifier, that can be mounted in, or removed from, the aircraft as a single package.
An Illustrated Dictionary of Aviation Copyright © 2005 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved

black box

An abstraction of a device or system in which only its externally visible behaviour is considered and not its implementation or "inner workings".

See also functional testing.
This article is provided by FOLDOC - Free Online Dictionary of Computing (

black box

(1) See black box testing and Black Box Corporation.

(2) An electronic device that records airplane flight data. Officially a "flight data recorder," the unit is highly protected and can emit a signal for up to 30 days after a crash, even underwater. First used in the late 1950s, Australia was the first country to require them. Dating back to the late 19th century, a "train event recorder" or "on-train monitoring recorder" (OTMR) is the equivalent device in a locomotive.

(3) An electronic device that records driving data in motor vehicles, most notably their speed. Officially an "event data recorder," automotive black boxes were first used in the late 1990s.

(4) Any custom-made electronic device can be called a black box, typically made to solve some interfacing problem. Such devices were named black boxes because they were often housed in plain containers, and their purpose may even be a mystery to the experienced observer. However, yesterday's black boxes sometimes become today's off-the-shelf products. See COTS.

The Black Box
Without logos or identifying marks, a black box can be any device custom made to solve a problem.

A Little Black Box
The 10-ounce device lying on top of this CD changer is an Apple TV set-top box. See Apple TV.
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References in periodicals archive ?
However, no matter how good fit of the short-term prediction, two of the three black box models do not seem to have satisfactory simulation tests, indicating that good short-term prediction does not mean that the model has captured the true process mechanism.
While ten total experiments were conducted and validated against the open-Box and black box models, the results below are for three select experiments.
Comparison of Experimental Data and Blank Box Model Predictions of Tolerance Time (min.) for Light and Heavy Work Loads in Jungle and Desert Conditions at MOPP-4 for the Seven Subjects Jungle Desert Environment Environment subject# L-200 W H-425 W L-200 W H-425 W 1 Black box model 63 54 66 44 Experimental 57 55 66 44 2 Black box model 64 52 70 43 Experimental 57 48 91 43 3 Black box model 45 40 45 35 Experimental 48 45 29 37 4 Black box model 49 31 53 29 Experimental 56 30 47 36 5 Black box model 52 37 56 34 Experimental 62 40 58 29 6 Black box model 33 50 27 35 Experimental 32 53 31 23 7 Black box model 28 28 28 19 Experimental 30 24 27 20 Reason to Quit subject# 1 Physiological 2 Psychological 3 Psychological 4 Phychological 5 Phychological 6 Psychological 7 Physilogical Table 4.
The other model proposed, the black box model to predict TTL, generalized well, and provided good predictions for the group of young fit males.
The sensitivity analysis for TTL using the black box model was performed under average environmental conditions (Tair = 34.2, Rh=0.47), and for an 'average' subject with mean values for each input (Table 4).
Artificial neural networks (ANNs) are one of the most widely used black box models, and they are achieving good results in a great variety of problems, including the prediction of energy consumption of a building.
Modelling of systems with uncertain nonlinearities and little physical insight is a domain of those black box models showing universal approximating capabilities such as fuzzy models.