Introduction:

Information Technology (IT) now dominate our lives. Both at home and at work we use computers, the internet, printers and mobile phones to make our lives a lot easier. But sometimes they actually make our life worse. There is nothing more frustrating than when a computer isn't working properly (e.g. when you can't move the cursor (the arrow) on the screen) or isn't working at all.

In this online exercise on computers, we will look at the vocabulary in English connected to computers and laptops (portable computers) when they have problems and ways to solve/fix them.


Exercise: Technical problems before a meeting

Read the following conversation between Juan and Peter. Peter is having problems with his laptop before giving a short Power Point presentation in a meeting.

From the context, try to guess what the meaning of the words/phrases in bold are. Then do the quiz at the end to check if you are right.

Juan:'What's happening Peter, you look frustrated?'

Peter:'My laptop won't turn on. It was working before, I don't know what's wrong!'

Juan:'Is it plugged in?'

Peter:'Yeah, I have connected it to the mains electricity, but that shouldn't be important because the laptop's battery still has charge or power.'

Juan:'Are you sure that the socket in the wall has power? Try to plug it into another socket.'

Peter:'I've tried that already and the socket has power. I thought that there may be a problem with the power cable, but it's working fine with the other laptop here.'

Juan:'I had a problem with my desktop computer last year where the wires had come loose in the power cable. So I had to replace the power cable. You can use my laptop to show it.'

Peter:'Thanks Juan, but I only saved the presentation to my hard drive. So I can't show the presentation on your laptop.'

Juan:'Can you remember when I had that problem with my laptop in July. When suddenly the screen froze and the laptop wouldn't respond when I pressed any of the keys on the keyboard or when I moved my finger on the touch pad. Sometimes it recovered and I could continue to use the application, but other times it crashed and stopped working completely. So, I had to reboot the laptop. It was so frustrating, because I used to lose all of the work I'd been doing. Then the application didn't load at all, so I couldn't even use it then. The IT Engineer told me it was a software fault with an application. So she just reinstalled the application and it's been working fine.'

Peter:'I'm happy for you, but I don't have any power to the laptop, so it's not a software fault. It seems like a hardware fault.'



Quiz: Vocabulary to describe computer problems

Below is a definition/description of each of the words/phrases in bold from the above text. Now fill in the blanks with one of these words/phrases in bold. Only use one word/phrase once and write it as it is in the text. Click on the "Check Answers" button at the bottom of the quiz to check your answers.

When the answer is correct, two icons will appear next to the question. The first is an Additional Information Icon "". Click on this for extra information on the word/phrase and for a translation. The second is a Pronunciation Icon "". Click on this to listen to the pronunciation of the word/phrase and to do a pronunciation speaking test.

1. Another way to say 'touch' or 'push' a button or a key, is    

         

Pressed:
(verb) 'to press' is used when you 'push' or 'touch' buttons to make them work. For example, you have to 'press' a button to make a doorbell ring/make a sound or when writing on a computer keyboard you have to 'press' the keys. In Spanish: "pulsar/presionar".

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Pressed:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
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2. The name of the part of a computer where you save/store your applications and documents, is the    

         

Hard drive:
(noun) The 'hard drive' is the part of a computer where all the applications, documents and files are stored or saved locally (on the computer). The size of a hard drive is measured in 'gigabites', but most people call them 'gig', e.g. 'my laptop has a 500 gig hard drive'. In Spanish: "disco duro".

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Hard drive:

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3. When talking about computers, people call an electrical or design 'problem' a    

         

Fault:
(noun) 'fault' is used with machines or computers to mean that a part of it has a mechanical or electrical problem, e.g. 'there's a fault with the screen, it's gone red'. It is also used to talk about a problem with the design. This is used for applications and software, e.g. 'there's a fault with the database, it won't save'.In Spanish: "falla/defecto".

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Fault:

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4. Another way to say 'switch on' or 'start' a computer, is    

         

Turn on:
(phrasal verb) 'to turn something on' in this context means 'to start' or 'to switch on' something electrical like the lights, a TV, a computer etc... It is a transitive phrase verb where an object can go between the two different parts, e.g. 'can you turn the lights on please?'. The opposite of 'to turn on' is 'to turn off' or 'to switch off'. In Spanish: "encender".

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Turn on:

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5. The part of a laptop where you move the cursor on the screen with a finger, is called the    

         

Touch pad:
(noun) A 'touch pad' is also called a 'track pad'. All laptops have a 'touch pad'. It is normally a rectangular area below a keyboard with one or two buttons, where you can move the cursor on the screen with your fingers. Normally, desktop computers (non-portable computers) don't have a 'touch pad', but have a mouse to move the cursor. In Spanish: "panel táctil".

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Touch pad:

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6. A 'lead' or 'wire' which connects a computer to a printer or a power supply, is called a    

         

Cable:
(noun) A 'cable' is 'wires' covered in rubber or plastic that is used to connect a computer, TV etc... to something else (e.g. a DVD player, printer, internet, for power). When a 'cable' is used to connect to a power supply, it is called a 'power cable' or 'power lead'. In Spanish: "cable".

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Cable:

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7. A different way to say 'restart' a computer, is    

         

Reboot:
(verb) 'to reboot' is a different way to say 'turn off and then turn on' or 'restart'. It is only used for computers or information technology devices/products like servers. This verb is normally used when there is a problem with the computer or after you have just installed some software or hardware, e.g. 'the computer now has a new version of the software, you now have to reboot the computer to make it work'. In Spanish: "reiniciar".

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Reboot:

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8. A phrasal verb that means to connect a 'cable' to a computer or to an electrical power supply, is    

         

Plugged in:
(phrasal verb) 'to plug something in' means to connect a cable to a computer/machine or electrical power supply. A 'plug' is the name of the connector that is at the end of a power cable/lead and is used to give the electrical machine (TV, computer, washing machine etc...) power from the mains electricity. It is a transitive phrase verb where an object can go between the two different parts, e.g. 'yes, I have plugged the printer cable in'. In Spanish: "estar conectado/enchufado".

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Plugged in:

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9. When you can't move the cursor on the screen, the screen is    

         

Froze:
(verb) 'to freeze' means that although the computer is turned on, the screen isn't responding when you try to enter information or move the cursor. It is common to use 'screen' before the verb, e.g. 'I can't do anything, the screen has frozen'. People also use the verb 'to hang' with a similar meaning. With 'to hang', you use the name of application before the verb e.g. 'the web browser is just hanging, it's not responding'. In Spanish: "bloquearse/congelarse".

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Froze:

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10. A possible reason why a cable isn't working, is    

         

Wires had come loose:
(phrase) 'wires have come loose' means that a cable 'damaged' and is a reason why the cable isn't working. Inside cables are lots of copper wires that transfer the electricity or data. People use 'wires have come loose' to mean that there is a break in the wires inside the cable or they're not touching the connector or plug, e.g. 'there's no power' 'have you checked to see if the wires have come loose?'. In Spanish: "cable suelto/dañado".

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Wires had come loose:

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11. Another way to say that an application 'doesn't start', is    

         

Didn't load:
(verb) 'to not load' means that an application/software isn't starting or opening. This is only used for computer based machines (laptops, smart phones, servers, computers etc...), e.g. 'the game isn't loading, I'll need to re-install it'. The opposite is 'to load'. In Spanish: "no cargar".

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Didn't load:

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12. The hole/holes where a cable is connected to , is called a    

         

Socket:
(noun) A 'socket' is the place where the connector or plug of a cable/lead is manually 'pluggued in' or 'connected to'. Computers have lots of sockets, where you can connect cables or 'USB sticks' to. Every house also has sockets in walls to give power to electrical machines, e.g. 'there's a socket behind the sofa, so you can charge your mobile phone'. In Spanish: "enchufe".

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Socket:

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13. The buttons on a keyboard that have letters or numbers on them, are called    

         

Keys:
(noun) A 'key' is the name for a type of button on a keyboard which people use to type/enter information. Computers also have buttons whose purpose it is not to enter information but to turn something on or off (e.g. the power button). In Spanish: "teclas".

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Keys:

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14. When an application is damaged/not working correctly, it normally has to be    

         

Reinstalled:
(verb) 'to reinstall' means to delete/deinstall some software/application from your computer/mobile phone and install it again. You normally have to do this when there is a big problem/fault with the software, 'the game isn't working, it's best to reinstall it'. The verb can also be used with a similar meaning for hardware (graphics card, hard drive etc...). In Spanish: "reinstalar".

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Reinstalled:

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15. The name of the power supply for a mobile phone, is    

         

Battery:
(noun) A 'battery' is the name of the power supply that is used in mobile devices (e.g. laptops, mobile phones, torches, cameras etc...). It is also called in the US and Canada a 'cell'. Modern batteries can now be recharged by connecting them to the mains electricity supply (the sockets in walls). In Spanish: "batería".

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Battery:

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16. When a computer or application fails or stops working, it    

         

Crashed:
(verb) 'to crash' means when a computer or an application 'stops working' or 'closes' when somebody is using it. Sometimes, you will see technical 'error messages' on the screen. If a computer 'crashes' it will often automatically reboot/restart. If an application 'crashes', you either have to reopen the application or reboot/restart the computer. In Spanish: "fallar".

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Crashed:

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Practice

Now that you understand the new vocabulary, practise it by creating your own sentences with the new words/phrases.