Millions of people have been turning up to Janet Jackson‘s ‘Rhythm Nation’ for over three decades, but some laptop computers apparently are not fans of the chart-topper. Last week, Microsoft revealed a bizarre vulnerability in which playing the 1989 hit can cause certain laptops to crash.
The bizarre story apparently began back when multiple users contacted Windows XP product support to report issues with their devices, mostly the widely used 5400-RPM laptop hard drive that was sold around 2005. It’s common to set up a laboratory experiment on a device or software application whenever there are multiple reports of an issue, such as the reported issue with ‘Rhythm Nation’ and the laptops. The laboratory experiment found that the song didn’t just necessarily crash the laptop that it was being played on, but also nearby laptops that were using the same hard drive model.
Raymond Chen at Microsoft explained it in a blog as such: “the song contained one of the natural resonant frequencies for the model of 5400 rpm laptop hard drives that they and other manufacturers used.”
Since then, the manufacturer has added a custom filter in the audio pipeline that detected and removed the offending frequencies during audio playback. Additionally, this hard drive was a spinning disk hard drive and most spinning hard drives have been gradually phased out in favor of solid-state drives over the years, but as Chen notes, they still persist in a host of devices around the world.
Ironically, the news comes within a few days of Apple’s announcement of a serious security vulnerability (along with a software update) for iPhones, iPads and Macs that could potentially allow attackers to take complete control of these devices.
Perhaps listening to music on cassette or record players is truly the only safe bet anymore.