How Did Old Analog Black Box Recorders Work?

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In the days before digital drives, how did airplane black box recorders work? In this remarkably clear and concise video, "The Engineer Guy," aka Bill Hammack, explains every detail of these lovely old analog devices. It turns out that they worked roughly like seismographs. The altitude- and velocity-measuring instruments carved their data into a special kind of steel allow known as inconel. The 200-foot long steel spool rolled along at six inches an hour, so each box could record 400 hours of data.

Via CrunchGear; H/t: Mark Karayan.

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science website in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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