Blog Page


Janet Jackson's 'Rhythm Nation' Crashed Early Laptops – Here's How – Digital Music News

Photo Credit: Benjamin Lehman
Microsoft engineer Raymond Chen shares the anecdote, which he says came from a colleague who worked on Windows XP. According to them, some Windows XP-era laptops using 5400RPM spinning hard drives (pictured above) could crash when exposed to Janet Jackson’s song, “Rhythm Nation.” The vulnerability has even been issued an official CVE ID as reported by Ars Technica – which lends credibility to the story.
Chen shares that CVE-2022-38392 was discovered by a major computer manufacturer. The issue affects not just the laptop playing the song but also adjacent laptops in the room while the song is playing. The specific hard drive model would crash because the song “Rhythm Nation” used some of the same natural resonant frequencies that the hard drive itself used – causing interference with its operation.
The CVE entry mentions “a certain 5400 RPM OEM hard drive, as shipped with laptop PCs in approximately 2005.” It’s unlikely anyone has any of these laying around in the nearly two decades that have passed, but it’s an interesting quirk of early technology.
The issue still wouldn’t be fixed for laptops nearby if the song is played, but by the early 2000s, the song’s popularity had faded enough for it to no longer be a problem. These days, most laptops no longer use spinning drives for storage so the issue don’t impact them. The Microsoft engineer says the issue of resonant frequencies is relatively new to computer engineering, but not engineering in general.
The 1940 collapse of the Tacoma Narrows bridge is attributed to ‘resonant frequencies.’ The bridge gained the nickname ‘Galloping Gertie’ during its construction due to how it would sway and bend in the wind. That bending and swaying motion was the eventual downfall of the bridge – and that event changed how suspension bridges are built across the United States. Curiously enough, this Janet Jackson incident probably had early hard drive engineers thinking about their designs, too.


× How can I help you?