Janet Jackson song had power to crash laptops, Microsoft reveals

·2 min read

Microsoft has revealed playing the music video for Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation crashed some of its older laptops.

In a blog post, the company’s senior software engineer, Raymond Chen, said a colleague had recently shared a story with him from his days working in Windows XP product support.

He said the video for Jackson’s 1989 hit song contained one of the “natural resonant frequencies” of the hard drives that both Microsoft and some competitors were using at the time.

It meant that when the video was played, the 5,400 RPM hard drives in question stopped working.

Mr Chen added: “And then they discovered something extremely weird: playing the music video on one laptop caused a laptop sitting nearby to crash, even though that other laptop wasn’t playing the video!”

The manufacturer resolved the issue by creating a special audio filter that detected and removed the offending frequencies before they came out of the speaker and crashed the hard drive.

Microsoft XP became available to the public in October 2001. Main support for the operating system ended in 2009 and extended support ended in 2014.

Mr Chen said he hoped manufacturers put a digital version of a “do not remove” sticker on the audio filter in the intervening years as the issue may have been forgotten.

Rhythm Nation was the second single from Jackson’s 1989 album, Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814, and contained socially conscious lyrics about racial harmony.

Its music video was shot in black and white to reflect the theme and the track itself reached number two on the US Billboard Hot 100.