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07/21/2010 08:52 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

David Warren, Black Box Creator, Dies At 85

David Warren, the creator of the "black box," that handy recording device used in airplanes, has has died at the age of 85 in Australia, according to the Agence France Presse.

Warren, whose father died in a plane crash in 1934, came up with the "black box" idea while looking into a 1953 crash involving the world's first commercial jetliner. "Without any explanation, without any witnesses, without any survivors ... (it was) a really baffling mystery," Warren said in a 2003 interview. He based his design on mini pocket recorders he has seen at a trade fair.

"I put the two ideas together," he once said. "If a businessman had been using one of these in the plane and we could find it in the wreckage and we played it back, we'd say, 'We know what caused this.' Any sounds that were relevant to what was going on would be recorded and you could take them from the wreckage."

Warren built a prototype in 1956, which was then able to store four hours of recordings. His idea was met with resistance: Australia's Department of Civil Aviation to him that his "instrument has little immediate direct use in civil aviation".

He demonstrated the device to a British official in 1958, when it was dubbed a "black box." But it was 10 years before black boxes were made mandatory in Australian aircraft. Of course now the invention is used in every passenger plane in the world. Warren said in 2003: "Our driving force was air safety so we felt that it's succeeded in that regard. (It's) a very satisfying feeling."

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