In more vintage music news, Janet Jackson’s 1989 dance-pop song “Rhythm Nation” is making headlines today, but not because it’s an amazing song, but because the tune could apparently crash people’s hard drives with a weird frequency.
Sometimes a song resonates with you so deeply that it moves you to your core, and sometimes a song resonates with your laptop so deeply that it crashes your hard drive. This was the case with Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation as revealed earlier this week by long-time Windows developer Raymond Chen in his blog The Old New Thing. Chen tells the story of a colleague who, during laptop testing at a major computer manufacturer, discovered that the Rhythm Nation video would crash certain models of laptops, even those of their competitors.
“One discovery during the investigation is that playing the music video also crashed some of their competitors’ laptops,” Chen writes. “I would not have wanted to be in the laboratory that they must have set up to investigate this problem. Not an artistic judgement.”
The twist is that it wasn’t necessarily the music video, but the song itself, as Chen describes an instance where a laptop near the one playing the video crashed. “It turns out that the song contained one of the natural resonant frequencies for the model of 5400 rpm laptop hard drives that they and other manufacturers used,” Chen explains. In other words, Rhythm Nation has a frequency within it that caused laptop hard drives to vibrate to the point of failure. The fix apparently included putting a filter in the computers’ audio receiver that would detect and remove the frequency before processing.
So there it is, it seems that our laptops are safe from the bass, bass, bass, bass of Rhythm’s Nation’s frequencies. Thank you Raymond Chen for reminding us all just how incredible this song is.