The terms ‘black box’ and ‘white box’ are convenient and figurative expressions of not very well-determined usage. I shall understand by a black box a piece of apparatus, such as four-terminal networks with two input and two output terminals, which performs a definite operation on the present and past of the input potential, but for which we do not necessarily have any information of the structure by which this operation is performed. On the other hand, a white box will be similar network in which we have built in the relation between input and output potentials in accordance with a definite structural plan for securing a previously determined input-output relation.

Norbert Wiener, Cybernetics: or Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine (1948).