It is common knowledge that some opera singers possess voices that are so strong that they can break glassware. However, a Microsoft engineer found a quirk that is really rather fascinating. His attention has been drawn to the fact that playing certain Janet Jackson songs may cause a crash in laptops.
The Janet Jackson music video for “Rhythm Nation” from 1989 was a masterpiece of technical mastery and aesthetic beauty. Among its numerous awards was the Grammy for Best Long Form Music Video because of its hazy, noir-like aesthetic.
Jackson is the first singer whose voice caused computers to crash.
However, the dystopian music video also had something else going for it, and that was the fact that it was really fascinating. Microsoft claims that Janet Jackson’s song has the potential to crash all computers. But what makes it special is that it crashes not only the computer on which it was played.
Raymond Chen, the company’s chief software engineer, wrote a blog post this week about a tale a coworker had told him about providing product support for Windows XP.
According to Mr. Chen, a well-known computer manufacturer had uncovered the fact that certain kinds of laptops would crash when the music video for Janet Jackson’s “Rhythm Nation” was played on them.
However, this manufacturer was not the only one that suffered. Through analysis, it was found that the music video also caused PCs belonging to their competitors to crash.
The most peculiar finding, however, was still to come.
It was not even necessary for it to be the laptop on which the music video was being played. Even nearby laptops could experience a crash if even one of them played the music video.
Mr. Chen added that analysis of the song’s frequency content revealed that it featured a natural resonance frequency for the type of 5400 rpm laptop hard drives used by them and other manufacturers.
The situation was analogous to an opera singer being able to break a glass by singing a certain tone in a certain key.
Acoustic waves are the building blocks of all sounds. This means that every medium has a unique wavelength or frequency at which its vibrations are most amplified, known as its resonance frequency.
The affected laptops had been released in 2005, according to a vulnerability report issued by The Mitre Corporation. According to the research, the Janet Jackson music video was detected to have a such frequency.
The problem has been categorized as a security vulnerability by Mitre. In addition, they argue that it might make it possible for an adversary to bring the system down by crashing it with the audio signal from the Rhythm Nation music video.
Fortunately, this problem won’t apply to modern computers. Microsoft claims that the developer included a special filter within the audio pipeline that automatically identified and muted the objectionable tones and tones during playing.