How a Janet Jackson song crashed some PCs

Rhythm Nation is a famous song by Janet Jackson, and it caused a lot of trouble for manufacturers of hard drives and portable PCs in the days of Windows XP. A frequency made our good old HDDs resonate, causing the computers to crash immediately.

Credit: YouTube

In a blog post, veteran developer Raymond Chen shares a fun anecdote about the effect the song could have. Rhythm Nation by Janet Jackson on some systems. He explains that laptop models could simply crash because of playing this particular title. Worse, a computer that wasn’t playing the music but was near the source could also crash.

“I wouldn’t have wanted to be in the lab they had to set up to investigate this issue”, jokes Raymond Chen. But then, why and how could a very specific song cause so much damage? “It turns out that the song contained one of the natural resonant frequencies [faisant vibrer] 5400 RPM laptop hard drive models that they and other manufacturers used”explains the developer.

You can run Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation on a modern PC

To solve the problem, the manufacturer added a custom filter in the audio pipeline, whose mission was to detect and then remove the offending frequencies during audio playback. “I’m sure they put a digital equivalent of a ‘Do Not Delete’ sticker on that audio filter”jokes the Microsoft executive.

Today’s hardware has evolved and the presence of this filter is no longer necessary. We do not know which PC manufacturers and hard drive manufacturers were affected by the phenomenon at the time, but the facts took place when Windows XP was the last version of the operating system released by Microsoft.

Source: Microsoft

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