"Computer Terms" from Voice of America

Douglas Englebart with the first PC

Now, the VOA Special English program WORDS AND THEIR STORIES.

Computer technology has become a major part of people's lives. This technology has its own special words. One example is the word mouse. A computer mouse is not a small animal that lives in buildings and open fields. It is a small device that you move around on a flat surface in front of a computer. The mouse moves the pointer, or cursor, on the computer screen.

Computer expert Douglas Engelbart developed the idea for the mouse in the early nineteen-sixties. The first computer mouse was a carved block of wood with two metal wheels. It was called a mouse because it had a tail at one end. The tail was the wire that connected it to the computer.

Using a computer takes some training. People who are experts are sometimes called hackers. A hacker is usually a person who writes software programs in a special computer language. But the word hacker is also used to describe a person who tries to steal information from computer systems.

Another well known computer word is Google, spelled g-o-o-g-l-e. It is the name of a popular "search engine" for the Internet. People use the search engine to find information about almost any subject on the Internet. The people who started the company named it Google because in mathematics, googol, spelled g-o-o-g-o-l, is an extremely large number. It is the number one followed by one-hundred zeros.

When you "Google" a subject, you can get a large amount of information about it. Some people like to Google their friends or themselves to see how many times their name appears on the Internet.

If you Google someone, you might find that person's name on a blog. A blog is the shortened name for a Web log. A blog is a personal Web page. It may contain stories, comments, pictures and links to other Web sites. Some people add information to their blogs every day. People who have blogs are called bloggers.

Blogs are not the same as spam. Spam is unwanted sales messages sent to your electronic mailbox. The name is based on a funny joke many years ago on a British television show, "Monty Python's Flying Circus." Some friends are at an eating place that only serves a processed meat product from the United States called SPAM. Every time the friends try to speak, another group of people starts singing the word SPAM very loudly. This interferes with the friends' discussion – just as unwanted sales messages interfere with communication over the Internet.


This VOA Special English program, WORDS AND THEIR STORIES, was written by Jill Moss. I'm Faith Lapidus.

Did you know that Englebart's original name for the "cursor" was "bug"? You see how language changes? That's why it's so fascinating. Now the word "bug", other than a generic title for "insect", means "glitch". Originally, "glitch" meant a sudden and unexpected surge in electrical power, the plague of astronauts. John Glenn, famed astronaut, coined the term. (Excuse me for a moment. I have to attend to an unwanted inflammation due to mosquito saliva in a section of my forearm epidermis)

1. A person who tries to steal information from computer systems is called a ______________________ .
a: hacker
b: digital thief
c: googler
d: search engineer

2. The name of the search engine "Google" derives from _______________ .
a: physics
b: literature
c: history
d: mathematics

3. Spam _______________________ communication over the Internet.
a: interferes with
b: contributes to
c: supports
d: censors

4. The tail of a computer mouse is __________________________ .
a: the part of the mouse that helps it keep its balance
b: a wire that connects the mouse to the computer
c: a sensitive part of the mouse that warns of danger
d: the device the user presses to the turn the computer on

5. A web page that contains pictures, comments, stories, or lessons is called a _______________ .
a: search engine
b: blog
c: mouse
d: cursor

6. A small animal that lives in abandoned buildings and open fields ______________________
a: is a mouse
b: is a mouse pad
c: is a computer device
d: has a wire that connects to a computer

7. When you say, "Let's google Mission Language Lab", you're using "google" as a ___________________ .
a: subject
b: adjective
c: verb
d: noun

8. The first computer mouse in the 1960s was made of ___________________ .
a: plastic
b: glass
c: wood
d: steel

9."Spam" isn't ____________________________ .
a: a computer word from Monty Python's Flying Circus
b: unwanted sales messages sent to your email account
c: a cheap processed meat product
d: a website containing useful information

10. A shortened name for web log is _________________________ .
a: link
b: blogger
c: python
d: blog

Using "gmail" from Google. You will hear, "Hey, good shot." Meaning, "good job."

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