A breakout box is a device used to sniff traffic on a (usually) rs-232 line. Normally, they just look like odd straight through cables, that branch off into two additional cables. One connects the TX, and connects to RX on the one branch; and the other goes from the RD line to the RD line on the other branch. Thus, one of the branches is out, and the other in. There are software packages which do basicly the same thing, one of which is called "Breakout", that usually require two serial ports; one incoming, one outcoming, and sniff that.

Breakout boxes are used for a variety of interface and electronic troubleshooting. Generally a cable containing the signal to be tested is plugged into the breakout box, and the breakout box is plugged into the socket the cable was plugged into. Typically there is a test point on the breakout box for each wire in the cable under test. Various pieces of test equipment such as multimeters or oscilliscopes can then be connected to the breakout box via the test points to observe signals and voltages in the cable being tested.

Modern breakout boxes often have LED's or other indicators and displays, often with sophisticated microprocessor support, to allow for troubleshooting without the need for external test equipment. Some modern breakout boxes can also be connected to a computer, using it for display or analysis.

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