Microsoft Reveals Janet Jackson Song Had the Power To Crash Laptops

The music video for Janet Jackson’s 1989 hit "Rhythm Nation" was a sensation in terms of its choreography and direction. Its foggy noir-like style won it numerous accolades, including a Grammy Award for Best Long Form Music Video. However, the video had something else going for it — the power to crash laptops, and not just those that it was playing on. Simply playing the music video on one laptop could cause another close by to crash. It turns out that the song contained one of the natural resonant frequencies for the model of 5400 rpm laptop hard drives that Microsoft used. The issue was similar to an opera singer being able to shatter a glass by singing a particular tone. Because sounds are simply acoustic waves, there’s a wavelength or frequency for each material that can create the most vibration, known as the medium’s "resonant frequency." For the affected laptops — which were shipped in approximately 2005, that frequency was in the Janet Jackson music video. Thankfully, laptops today don't suffer from the same issue because Microsoft added a custom filter in the audio pipeline that detects and removes the offending frequencies during audio playback.