20 years of PHP #20yearsofphp

Posted by Andrew McCombe on Tue Jun 9, 2015

On 8th June 1995, Rasmus Lerdorf announced the release of Personal Home Page Tools Version 1.0. To celebrate the 20th anniversary, Ben Ramsey has asked the PHP community to share their PHP experiences and share them on Twitter using the hashtag #20yearsofphp.

Here’s my story.

I sort of fell into Web Development after getting online with my Amiga 1200 sometime around 1995. I’d connected to Compuserve and browsed around the groups and bulletin boards of the time and saw more and more references to ‘the web’. I had a subscription to Amiga Format magazine at the time and there was an edition with an article on the ‘world wide web’ and it was here I learned what was possible.

Skip forward a year or so and I was working at a local print and design company and it was there I designed my first web site – using AOL’s ‘pages’. Shortly after that I was asked to write a website for a local property developer and this was my first foray into writing CGI code. I used Perl and hosted it on a Cobalt Raq 3. Perl was fun, but tedious. Outputting all the HTML from Perl strings was slow and bug-ridden. I’d done a couple of small e-commerce stores using Perl before the company we hosted with mentioned looking at PHP. This was 1998 and php3 was the version at the time.

As soon as I saw how easy it was to output PHP code directly in the HTML, I was sold.

From then I wrote a few more sites using PHP for the printing company, and a few personal projects too, before I moved on to my current employer, a full time web development company in 2003.

In the interview I was told that I’d need to learn Classic ASP as most of their current client’s sites were using that. I bought some books, got my head round it and wrote exactly one piece of functionality in ASP before never using it again. Not the languages’ fault (fnar) but PHP was just so easy (and cheaper to run).

I started compiling PHP from source to keep on the bleeding edge of things as well as compiling Apache and Mysql. Circa 2004 I started using PEAR libraries heavily to create my own ‘framework’. Pear DB & Smarty were the libraries I used mostly but I remember it being a pain to update these.

Over the years PHP has grown, changed its spots, gained new features, and has been directly responsible for many of our clients’ businesses being successful. Around 2008 we chose to invest in using an established PHP Framework and so jumped on the Zend Framework bandwagon. This was a learning curve and a half but once mastered it became very rewarding. This learning curve was to be the downfall that lead us to writing our own in-house framework (how many of you have heard that before?). Again, PHP was the logical, optimal choice for this.

Over time I’ve gained experience with many of the frameworks that have grown on top of PHP (Symfony being my favourite). I’ve grasped the concepts of TDD, Unit testing and Integration Testing, adopted composer to manage software and countless other areas of the PHP eco-system.

Over the last few years PHP has gone from strength to strength. Large monolithic frameworks have been sidelined in favor of component based ‘anti-frameworks’. But PHP still maintains that low barrier to entry that makes newcomers feel welcome.

With PHP powering leading blogging, eCommerce and social networks, it isn’t going away anytime soon.

So thanks, Rasmus, for your contribution to my career. PHP has enabled me to get paid for the last 20 years and to create websites and generate successes for our clients.

Other PHP #20yearsofphp Stories:

(If I’ve missed your #20yearsofphp story, tweet me a link and I’ll add it)