Archive for June, 2015

20 Years of PHP

Monday, June 8th, 2015

Today is PHP’s 20th birthday. Ben Ramsey has called on us to blog about our history with PHP, so here’s mine.

Way back in 1999, still in college, I got my first real software development job at a small company in DC, the predecessor to my current employer. My job was to write an Apache log analyzer, because the software package we were using at the time was very slow and produced inconsistent results between runs.

So I wrote it in C++, because that’s what I knew, and what I was using for my personal projects. But, we were a web services company, so why shouldn’t our log analyzer be accessible via the web?

We were using a couple of different web languages at the time. Some of our early stuff was in PERL, which I had tried before and didn’t like. We also had a site using this awful language called SQLWEB. But, it was suggested to me that I write the web interface using this scripting language called PHP. I had never heard of it before, but I quickly learned it (because, frankly with PHP 3, there wasn’t much to learn), and quickly became enamored with this language.

Sure, it didn’t have many of the features we’ve come to take for granted in modern PHP, such as OOP or closures, or even the foreach keyword (hooray for PHP 4!). But its key feature was that it didn’t need to be compiled. Up until then, every program I’d ever written had a slow write-compile-debug cycle, because compiling a new build and relaunching the app to test was always slow. But here, with PHP, all I needed to do was change my code and refresh the browser window, and the changes were immediately visible. PHP may have been slower than C, but I was way more productive.

We no longer use that log analyzer, but PHP is the foundation for every website we currently manage, and is the vast majority of the code I’ve written over my professional career. And since then, the PHP community has become so much bigger, with several different application frameworks, thousands of open source libraries made easily available through Composer and Packagist, more conferences every year than one person could possibly attend, and a great community that I’m happy to be a part of.

Happy birthday, PHP! Here’s to another 20 years of powering the web.