When I was in college, my roommate and I were sitting around one evening bemoaning the fact that we didn’t have pen tablets in the graphics lab.

We tried to think of alternative ways of using the equipment we already had to get something more expressive than a standard mouse.

Suddenly, Gertrude, the little known Greek Muse of Hacking, gave us a flash of insight! One of the computers in the lab had a microphone attached!

We wrote a simple paint program called Phlegm that used the microphone to control brush characteristics.

My roommate, Nick Thompson, wrote some cool FFT code to analyze the sound, and I wrote the user interface.

We mapped sound intensity, pitch, and coherence into various aspects of the brush shape.

What we wound up with was a phlegm metaphor for painting. The user makes natural spitting sounds, and the resulting brush shape approximates what you’d expect to see on the screen if you really were spraying saliva onto the monitor.

Here’s an image I painted with the program. It’s called Phlegm Rat.

The brush position is controlled by the mouse, but you don’t have to press any buttons.

We’re pretty sure that a paint program like this would not be commercially successful, because it’s fairly embarrassing to make spitting noises at a computer when other people are watching.

On the other hand, after a minute or two you usually get so lightheaded from hyperventilating that you don’t care.

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