IELTS® Listening Practice 106

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Listening Script Vocabulary

(Section 4: You will hear a talk discussing the history of computers. First, you will have some time to look at questions 31 to 40 [20 seconds]. Listen carefully and answer questions 31 to 40.)


Good afternoon everyone, and welcome to the Computer Science Program. As you will know from your schedules, we're going to start off today's session with a very brief overview of the history of the computer, looking at key dates and events that led us to the modern computers that we all use today.

Now, although it is what many people use it for, the computer was born not for entertainment or email but out of a need to solve a serious number-crunching crisis. By 1880, the U.S. population had grown so large that it took more than seven years to tabulate the U.S. Census results. The government sought a faster way to get the job done, giving rise to punch-card based computers that took up entire rooms. Today, we carry more computing power on our smartphones than was available in these early models. So, how did computers evolve from their humble beginnings to the machines of today that surf the internet, play games and stream multimedia in addition to crunching numbers.

We start off in 1801, in France, when Joseph Marie Jacquard invented a loom that punched wooden cards to automatically weave fabric designs. Early computers would use similar punch cards.

In 1822, English mathematician Charles Babbage invented a steam-driven calculating machine that could compute tables of numbers. The project, funded by the English government, was a failure, however. 

In 1890, Herman Hollerith designed a punch card system to calculate the 1880 U.S. census, accomplishing the task in just three years and saving the government $5 million. He established a company that would ultimately become IBM.

1936 saw Alan Turing presenting the notion of a universal machine, later called the Turing machine, capable of computing anything that is computable. The central concept of the modern computer was based on his ideas.

Douglas Engelbart showed a prototype of the modern computer in 1964, with a mouse and a graphical user interface (GUI). This marked the evolution of the computer from a specialised machine for scientists and mathematicians to technology that is more accessible to the general public.

Now, you are all probably too young to remember the 'floppy disk', the first portable storage device invented by Alan Shugart and a team of IBM engineers in 1971, that allowed data to be shared between computers.

It wasn't until later in the 1970s – between '74 and '77 – that a number of personal computers hit the market. One of these was called the Altair 8080, described as the 'world's first minicomputer kit to rival commercial models'. Two 'computer geeks', Paul Allen and Bill Gates, offered to write software for the Altair and after the success of this first endeavour, the two childhood friends formed their own software company, Microsoft. 

Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak started Apple Computers on April Fool's Day 1976 and rolled out the Apple I, the first computer with a single circuit board. The following year, Jobs and Wozniak incorporated Apple, and demonstrated the Apple II computer, which offered colour graphics and incorporated an audio cassette drive for storage.


It wasn't until 1985 that the first dot-com domain name was registered on March 15, years before the World Wide Web would mark the formal beginning of internet history. More than two years later, only 100 dot-coms had been registered.

Tim Berners-Lee, a researcher at CERN, the high-energy physics laboratory in Geneva, developed HyperText Markup Language (HTML) in 1990, giving rise to the World Wide Web, and in 1996 the Google search engine was developed at Stanford University. By 1999, the term Wi-Fi had become part of the computing language and users began connecting to the internet without wires.

Facebook, the social networking site, launched in 2004, and YouTube, a video sharing service, was founded the following year. The next year again, Apple introduced the MacBook Pro and the iMac, Nintendo's Wii game console hit the market and soon after that the iPhone brought many computer functions to the smartphone.

So. What lies ahead? Well, …

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