Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Janet Jackson Music Crashed Laptop Computers

Raymond Chen:

And then they discovered something extremely weird: Playing the music video on one laptop caused a laptop sitting nearby to crash, even though that other laptop wasn’t playing the video!


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.

The manufacturer worked around the problem by adding a custom filter in the audio pipeline that detected and removed the offending frequencies during audio playback.

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I'm confused by the last line. If it's laptops that are NOT playing back the audio that are crashing, how would filtering the playback of said audio stop those laptops from crashing? e.g. if someone was playing the song on a nearby stereo.

In the early days of CD players, we had a soundtrack to the Snow White movie on CD. For some reason, every time we played it on a CD player, the CD player would stop working a few days later. Back in those days, CD players were not cheap. We never looked into why this was. We did not want to break any more CD players.

@Ben G, as related in the story, that was a secondary problem. The main problem would be the system’s own speakers breaking the drives as they hit that frequency. That said, because of the variance of quality in different sound systems, it’s less likely that a completely different radio or speaker that’s not that exact model of speaker in the laptop would destroy the HD in there.

@Ben Filtering on one laptop can help protect another laptop. If you’re playing using a stereo I guess you’re out of luck.

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