We endeavour to provide first class front-line support for all our products and services and aim to provide a choice of flexible support options.

Before contacting us you are advised to consult our support forums. Our support forums include sections on:

  • Millisecond timing
  • Can I do x, y & z with...
  • Hardware how to's
  • Software how to's
  • Documentation
  • Software & firmware updates
  • Issue tracking
  • Feature requests
  • General topics

PLEASE NOTE: First line support is via email. If you have a support query you should contact us on: initially. You will normally receive a response within 48hrs (excluding weekends and public holidays).

Black Box ToolKit version 2 hardware specifications
The new ARM based BBTK v2 is now shipping. It has its own CPU (like those found in iPads and Android tablets) and onboard RAM for storing samples and uses a range of easy to use external sensors to check timing. It records stimulus events and generates responses with sub-millisecond accuracy and is controlled from a host PC, laptop or netbook via USB. Once running, timing data is independently collected from a second PC, Mac or Linux box running your experiment along with any other equipment you are monitoring or triggering, e.g. MRI, EEG/ERP, eye trackers etc. Once the BBTK has automatically stepped through your whole experiment it uploads captured timing data for analysis. An API/SDK is also available should you wish to control the BBTK from your own software, e.g. Matlab, PsychoPy etc. The API supports the serial protocol over USB for PC, Mac OS X, Linux etc. and is accessed via a standard COM port.

  • NXP LPC1768 running at 96 MHz
  • ARM Cortex-M3 32 bit processor (ARM v7-M architecture)
  • 3.3 VDC Abracon Corporation CMOS SMD Crystal Clock Oscillator
  • Internal timestamps stored with µs precision (accuracy to millionths of a second)
  • 64MBit internal memory (8 MB RAM) for storing samples (max 262,144 line changes)
  • RFI coated ABS plastic or metal enclosure
  • Line change detection and time stamping (only stores changes, e.g. a bitmap on an opto-detector takes 2 samples regardless of duration. That is, on and off)
  • 2 MB flash drive (BBTK appears as a drive letter under Windows/OS X for easy firmware updates - copy a single firmware file across and reset. No need to flash firmware!)
  • LCD status screen (20x4 lines)
  • Rotary encoder for setting sensor activation thresholds - turn and press to confirm (all thresholds stored and recalled digitally)
  • USB connection to host PC for sequence programming and uploading and analysis of timing data
  • Once programmed fully autonomous and unaffected by anything you do on the host PC
  • Can be used with low powered netbooks
  • Fully documented API for controlling the BBTK from your own software (uses serial commands over USB virtual COM port)
  • Powered by 5 V Switch Mode PSU (suitable for worldwide use)
  • Each of the 20 standard lines has it's own activity LED on the front panel
  • Otpo and Mic smoothing built in and controllable via GUI (block CRT refreshes together for ease of analysis)
  • Up to 36 input and output lines across a range of sensors (Elite model)
    • 4x opto-detectors (front panel)
    • 2x TTL input lines (uses breakout board via 25-way D on rear)
    • 2x TTL output lines (uses breakout board via 25-way D on rear)
    • 4x Active Switch Closures using Solid State Relays (uses breakout board via 25-way D on rear)
    • 2x BBTK digital microphones (front panel)
    • 2x BBTK digital sounders (front panel)
    • 4 key BBTK response pad connector (9-way D on rear)
    • 16 additional TTL input/output lines using rear 25-way expansion port

Black Box ToolKit version 2 software specifications
The BBTK version 2 comes complete with a redesigned and fully integrated control and analysis application written in the Microsoft .NET 4 framework for the Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF). It supports Microsoft Windows XP SP3, Vista SP2, Windows 7 SP1, Windows 8/8.1 and Windows 10 Technical Preview natively. It also supports VMWare/Parallels on Mac OS X and Linux so long as a virtual serial/COM port can be used.

  • Integrated 4 Window MDI interface (raw line change data, notepad, line-by-line analysis spreadsheet and 20 channel logic analyser)
  • Easy to use clear well designed interface based on customer feedback and field trials
  • Latest WPF and interface design
  • Colour coded spreadsheets and logic analyser
  • Ability to name your own line labels
  • Make notes describing your paradigm (up to 64k)
  • Wizards for constructing stimulus-response sequences
  • Save programs generated by the wizards for reuse or modification
  • Easy to use timing cursors
  • Timing tooltips shown when analysing data
  • Capture statistics stored with each capture
  • Digital sensor activation thresholds stored with each capture
  • Highlight timing data in spreadsheets from the logic analyser by pressing H
  • Save spreadsheets so you can load them in Excel
  • Copy data or logic analyser plots for pasting into Word
  • Produce summary reports in HTML (includes logic analyser plots etc)
  • Video based help system (never look at a printed manual again!)
  • High quality printed manual for reference purposes
  • Automatic update notifications of the latest BBTK ARM firmware and PC software
  • Clear and easy to understand file formats (fully documented)
  • Integrates with the hardware for setting sensor activation thresholds. Turn the knob on the BBTK and the thresholds alters sliders shown in the PC software
  • Global settings stored in a readable XML file
  • Supports the Windows Problem Steps Recorder (PSR) for enhanced troubleshooting
  • Internationalisation supported by Windows regional options
Works with the BBTK online "Proof" repository where you can upload your self-validation timing reports and link to them via a DOI. Great for self-certification when you publish your research! Be ahead of the curve.

Digital Stimulus Capture And Response (DSCAR) module timing characteristics

Various validation timing tests have been carried out at all stages of development. Initially these have focused on the Digital Stimulus Capture And Response (DSCAR) module of the BBTK and associated ARM firmware. Timing measures presented are round trip times. That is, the time taken to detect a stimulus and generate a response to it. It should be noted that timings are affected by how appropriately sensor activation thresholds are set and the quality of the equipment presenting the stimulus.

Description Nominal accuracy
BBTK keypad key down event to generation of a tone using BBTK Sounder <100 µs
Tone duration accuracy of a BBTK Sounder <80 µs
Electrical signal of BBTK sounder to output of audio smoothing PIC (leading edge of a sound detected) <159 µs
Mic smoothing error on sound duration (20 ms smoothing on trailing edge) <500 µs
Frequency of BBTK Sounders 3,425Hz +/- 1%
Opto-detector (TFT - 17" AG Neovo S-17A @ 75 Hz) to BBTK Sounder (see note 1) - target RT 5 ms <600 µs
Opto-detector (CRT - 17" HP 7540 @ 60 Hz) to BBTK Sounder (see note 2) - target RT 5 ms <600 µs
BBTK keypad key down event to Active Switch Closure <400 µs
TTL signal in to Active Switch Closure <120 µs
TTL signal in to TTL signal out <40 µs

Note 1

Note 2

The warm-up curve (channel 1) for the TFT chosen is longer than for a CRT shown right. Sounder output channel 2. RT target 5 ms

Warm-up curve (channel 1) is faster for the CRT chosen. Sounder output channel 2. RT target 5 ms

Digital Stimulus Capture (DSC) module timing characteristics

Description Nominal accuracy
100 ms duty cycle TTL signal fed into the BBTK <1 µs

Event Generation (EG) module timing characteristics

Description Nominal accuracy
100 ms duty cycle TTL signal generated by the BBTK <1 µs



Black Box ToolKit version 1
Please note the Black Box ToolKit version 1 is now no longer for sale and has been replaced by the new ARM based version 2. The version 1 is now considered end of life and the information below is provided for legacy reasons. All version 1 BBTK purchased within the last 12 months remain in warranty and are fully supported.

Black Box ToolKit version 1 user guide
The full 98 page user guide [PDF].

Updated version of the Black Box ToolKit version 1 software suite

An update to the current version 1 CD is available for download. You should download and install this if the date of your "menu.exe" is older than 05-10-2004 (dd-mm-yyyy). Check this by selecting "Help | About" from the toolkit main menu. PASSWORD for install: haps

Note: You will need to email us ( and ask for a password before you will be able to install. You are advised to uninstall any existing versions and backup your data files before installing this update. This download requires that you are an existing customer.

Black Box ToolKit version 1 hardware requirements

The Black Box Toolkit gives you the option of two installation types. The first is "Test & Analyse" and the second "Analyse Only". Test & Analyse allows you to test your own paradigms and has higher hardware requirements. Whereas analyse only allows you to analyse data already collected. In this case the minimum hardware requirements are lower.

Before you are able to test paradigms the Black Box Toolkit will run tests to calibrate itself to ensure that your host PC is capable of real time measurement. Most PCs will enable a sampling rate of 48 kHz or higher (48 samples per millisecond).

Test & analyse hardware requirements

  • 1 GHz CPU or higher
  • Windows 2000 or XP
  • 256 MB RAM
  • 100 MB Hard Drive Space (plus additional space to store real time logs - approximately 1 MB per second of run-time)
  • EPP 1.7 or 1.9 or Bi-directional parallel port

Environmental considerations

  • When using the opto-detectors you are advised to work in a room illuminated by natural lighting. Artificial fluorescent lighting for example can inadvertently activate the sensitive opto-detectors. Typically this will appear as mains frequency hum when you analyse your data (regular spaced peaks at 50/60 Hz). Indirect artificial lighting is generally suitable or as an alternative mask out the back of the polycarbonate opto-detector with opaque tape.

General specifications of the Black Box Toolkit version 1

  • 8 channel - 4 digital input/4 digital output
    • 2 opto-detector leads for detecting screen events on a second PC, Mac or Linux system
    • 2 switch closure channels for simulating button presses on equipment running your paradigm
    • 2 powered digital-in channels for BBTK microphones etc.
    • 2 powered digital-out channels for BBTK tone generators etc.
  • Fully modular so that additional custom sensors can be added
  • Opto-isolated switch closure lines
  • Sampling rates of over 48 kHz using a standard PC
  • EPP 1.7 or 1.9 or Bi-directional parallel port interface to host PC
  • Powered by external 5 V supply
  • 12 month warranty

Sensor and generation modules timing specifications

The timing tests were carried out using a digital oscilloscope and our own specialized microphones and tone generators together with the standard software suite. Testing was carried out using a 1.3 GHz AMD Athlon based computer with EPP 1.9 port.

Sensor or module Nominal timing characteristics
Black Box Sampling Rate across all 8 lines (typical sampling rate on a 1.3 Ghz Athlon) 48+ kHz
Powered input/output timed from parallel port to input/output pin of peripheral or switch closure <100 ns
Microphone timed from output of tone generator to parallel port (Op-amp amplified Electret mic – uses microcontroller to detect peak and cancel false triggering) <50 µs
Opto-detector input timed from diode to parallel port <100 ns
2.5mm switch closure timed from parallel port to contact 35 µs
Tone generator timed from parallel port to piezo sounder pin (Piezo sounder with pitch and amplitude control via 2 potentiometers) 50 µs ~ 625 µs

Individual line specifications

Lines 1 & 2, powered digital in & passive switch closure

TTL input. A TTL signal (0-5 V) can be connected to these lines, with ground connected to the 3.5 mm jack plug sleeve (0 V) and the signal to the jack plug ring (input signal). Device switch connections (eg. Joystick, mice etc.), can also be connected across these points as long as the polarity of any voltage across the switch is noted and this voltage doesn't exceed 5 V. Power can be taken from the 5 V on the tip of the jack plug as long as the consumption is limited to 50 mA.

3.5mm stereo jack socket. Connection as detailed below:

  • Tip: 5V (< 50 mA)
  • Ring: TTL signal
  • Screen: 0V

The audio detection module (microphone) can be connected to these lines.

Lines 3 & 4, Opto-detector

These 2 lines are intended only for the opto-detectors provided with this kit and provide a connection from the amplifier within the Black Box Toolkit to their photo diodes.

  • 2.5 mm mono jack socket

Lines 5 & 6, powered digital out

TTL output. The signal between the ring and sleeve of the 3.5 mm stereo jack socket is TTL (0-5 V) and can be used to connect to any peripheral with an input expecting a TTL signal. Power can be taken from the 5 V on the tip of the jack plug as long as the consumption is limited to 50 mA.

Lines 7 & 8, Active Switch Closure
The 2.5mm mono sockets connect to the switch contacts of a solid-state relay. The maximum ratings for which are:

  • Load voltage (peak AC): 50 V
  • Continuous load current: 0.13 A
  • Peak load current: 0.4 A (100 ms, 1 shot, DC)
  • On resistance: 18 Ω

The connections from the active switch closure lines can be connected in parallel with device buttons (eg. Joysticks, mice, etc.) to emulate the pressing of the button. The unit is supplied with 2 flying leads with 2.5 mm connectors for this purpose.

NOTE: Be careful when connecting the flying leads from the 'Active Switch Closure' not to connect the two leads across the power supply to the device you're measuring!

  • 2.5 mm mono jack socket
  • Tip:Solid-state relay contacts
  • Screen:Solid-state relay contacts

Power supply

The power adaptor for the unit needs to be regulated and supply 9 V with a power rating of at least 250 mA. The connector for the supply is a 2.1 mm low power connector where the centre pin is 9 V and the outer being ground (0 V).

The UK version is supplied with a suitable power adaptor with a multi plug connector. The larger (2.1mm) connector is the one to use.

Response box (optional)

The response box comes supplied with an 8 way cable with flying leads. These can be connected to external peripherals as described in the 'Active Switch Closure' section. The flying leads are connected in pairs to solid-state relays within the response box, the wiring is described in the table below:

Colour wires Lines
Green – Yellow 5
Orange – Red 6
Brown – Blue 7
Purple – Grey 8