Microsoft reveals Janet Jackson’s song had the power to crash laptops – even when not playing on them | Science and technology news
The music video for Janet Jackson’s 1989 hit Rhythm Nation was a sensation in terms of choreography and direction.
His foggy-noir-esque style has garnered him numerous accolades, including a Grammy Award for Best Long Music Video.
But the dystopian pop video had something else to offer – the power to crash laptops Microsoftand not just the ones it played on.
In a blog post this week, the company’s senior software engineer, Raymond Chen, said a colleague recently told him a story from the days of providing product support for Windows XP.
“A major computer manufacturer discovered that playing the music video for Janet Jackson‘s ‘Rhythm Nation’ would crash certain laptop models,” Mr. Chen wrote.
It wasn’t just this manufacturer either. The investigation revealed that playing the music video also crashed some competitors’ laptops.
But the strangest discovery was yet to come.
It didn’t even have to be the laptop playing the music video. Merely playing the music video on one laptop could crash another nearby.
“It turned out that the song contained one of the natural resonant frequencies for the 5400 rpm model of laptop hard drives that they and other manufacturers were using,” explained Mr. Chen.
The problem was similar to that of an opera singer who is able to break a glass by singing a specific note.
Since sounds are simply acoustic waves, there is a wavelength or frequency for any material that can produce the strongest vibrations, known as the medium’s resonant frequency.
Affected laptops shipped around 2005, according to a vulnerability report by The Miter Corporation, had this frequency in Janet Jackson’s music video.
Miter describes the issue as a vulnerability that could allow an attacker to crash the system containing the audio from the Rhythm Nation music video.
Thankfully, laptops today don’t suffer from the same problem — Microsoft says the manufacturer “added a custom filter in the audio pipeline that detected and removed the interfering frequencies during audio playback.”