Janet Jackson’s “Rhythm Nation” music video had the power to crash laptops.
The 56-year-old singer released the iconic music video in 1989, and a Microsoft employee has now revealed how he managed to crash laptops around the world.
Raymond Chen, Senior Software Engineer at Microsoft, explained in a blog post, “A colleague of mine shared a story about Windows XP product support. A major computer manufacturer discovered that playing the music video of ‘Rhythm Nation” by Janet Jackson was crashing certain models of laptops. I wouldn’t have wanted to be in the lab they had to set up to investigate this problem. Not artistic judgment.
“One finding during the investigation is that playing the music video also crashed some of their competitors’ laptops.
“And then they discovered something extremely bizarre: Playing the video clip on a laptop caused a laptop sitting nearby to crash, even though that other laptop wasn’t playing the video!
“What’s going on? It turns out the song contained one of the natural resonant frequencies of the 5400 RPM model of laptop hard drives that they and other manufacturers used. (sic)”
Despite this, the technical experts finally managed to find a solution to the problem.
The blog post continues: “The manufacturer worked around the issue by adding a custom filter in the audio pipeline that detected and removed the offending frequencies during audio playback.
“And I’m sure they put a digital version of a ‘Do Not Delete’ sticker on that audio filter. (Although I do worry that in the many years since adding the workaround, no one remembers why it’s there.I hope their laptops don’t carry that audio filter yet to protect against damage to a hard drive model they no longer use. ) (sic)”