Microsoft Senior Software Engineer Raymond Chen explained how a clip of a Janet Jackson song could compromise laptops running Windows XP.
During his career, computer scientist Raymond Chen has encountered many funny situations. For 25 years with Microsoft, he is now the company’s principal software engineer. Over the years, he shared these anecdotes in a blog, published directly on the site of the computer giant.
On August 16, Raymond Chen told how Janet Jackson’s song “Rhythm Nation” had the power to crash laptops, reports The Verge. The story dates back to the era of Windows XP, the operating system released in 2001 that disappeared in 2014.
Even computers listening to the song were affected
A manufacturer noticed that by playing this song, certain computer models encountered bugs and stopped working. Performing the test on competing devices, the result was identical. But even more surprisingly, the manufacturer realized that computers also reacted to listening to “Rhythm Nation”.
“The song turned out to contain one of the natural resonant frequencies of the 5400 rpm laptop hard drive model they were using, as well as those from other manufacturers,” says Raymond Chen.
When listening to Janet Jackson’s title, the computer emitted a sound wave capable of vibrating its hard drive, undeniably causing a system crash. In order to solve the problem, the manufacturer simply created an audio filter, preventing computers from playing this specific frequency.
A well-known phenomenon
If the Microsoft engineer does not specify which brands and which hard drives were affected by this problem, the reaction of computing devices to certain sounds remains known. In his blog post, Raymond Chen also refers to a video from 2009 showing an IT worker shouting in a data center while recording the impact on system latency.
More recently, security researcher Alfredo Ortega demonstrated this phenomenon in 2017. With specific software, he reproduced the resonant frequency of a hard disk, which was sure to cause a computer crash. Obviously, the software can seriously damage the device on which it is used.