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Listen&Learn: The Story of CAPTCHA

Posted by: Jaksyn Peacock
Learn how CAPTCHAs do more than catch robots
I am not a robot
Art by Janos Perian on Pixabay

Pre-listening vocabulary

  • verify: to make sure that something is true
  • acronym: a word that is a short form for a phrase
  • secondary: not as central or important as something else
  • warped: unusually shaped; distorted
  • sample: a small part of a larger whole
  • digitize: to make digital copies of physical books or pictures
  • outperform: to do better than someone else

Listening activity

Gapfill exercise

Many websites use CAPTCHAs to verify that their are human. The word CAPTCHA is actually an acronym that stands for Completely Automated Public Turing Test to Tell Computers and Humans Apart. Early CAPTCHAs were lines of warped that were difficult for computers to read. In 2007, the creators of CAPTCHA gave the bot test a secondary purpose. The new technology, called reCAPTCHA, showed users sample images of text and used the to help digitize books. Since then, Google has also used reCAPTCHA to improve its maps. This is why many reCAPTCHAs have users identify and street names. However, not all CAPTCHAs involve identification. The “I am not a robot” checkboxes track mouse movements across the screen. CAPTCHAs change regularly because bots are improving over time. In some , robots have actually outperformed humans at identifying text.

Comprehension questions

See answers below

  1. The earliest CAPTCHAs were
    a. pictures of streets
    b. warped text
    c. multiple choice quizzes
  2. In 2007,
    a. a robot solved a CAPTCHA for the first time
    b. the creators of CAPTCHA began using the technology to digitize books
    c. Google announced that it would use CAPTCHAs to train self-driving cars
  3. “I am not a robot” checkboxes
    a. are impossible for a robot to see on the screen
    b. use a special font that confuses robots
    c. track mouse movements to catch robots

Discussion/essay questions

  1. Some people think that Google collecting CAPTCHA responses is a data privacy concern. What do you think? How careful are you about privacy on the internet?
  2. The word CAPTCHA is an example of a “backronym.” Backronyms are acronyms that are intentionally designed to spell out a certain word. Can you think of any other backronyms?
  3. In testing, ChatGPT has solved a CAPTCHA by hiring a human to do it. Do you think this is a concern? Why or why not?

Transcript

Many websites use CAPTCHAs to verify that their users are human. The word CAPTCHA is actually an acronym that stands for Completely Automated Public Turing Test to Tell Computers and Humans Apart. Early CAPTCHAs were lines of warped text that were difficult for computers to read. In 2007, the creators of CAPTCHA gave the bot test a secondary purpose. The new technology, called reCAPTCHA, showed users sample images of text and used the responses to help digitize books. Since then, Google has also used reCAPTCHA to improve its maps. This is why many reCAPTCHAs have users identify addresses and street names. However, not all CAPTCHAs involve identification. The “I am not a robot” checkboxes track mouse movements across the screen. CAPTCHAs change regularly because bots are improving over time. In some experiments, robots have actually outperformed humans at identifying text.

Answers to comprehension questions

1b 2b 3c

Written and recorded by Jaksyn Peacock for EnglishClub
© EnglishClub.com

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