20 Years of PHP

20 Years of PHP

Ben Ramsey has asked the PHP community to blog about our first encounter with PHP. This is my story.

When I started a web browser for the first time, I saw a map of Germany with a few dots on it. Each dot was clickable and represented one web server. I was looking at every web server that existed in Germany. That was 1993, and I was studying computer science at the Technical University of Munich.

A few years later I was working as a software engineer. I was rather unhappy at the time, one reason being that installing a Windows Service Pack before a certain version of Internet Explorer would make our Java applets crash. If you installed Internet Explorer before the Service Pack, they would work. The year was 1999, and I figured that the web would be the next big thing, at least if we'd survive the millennium bug.

Wanting to move away from Java to get into scripting languages, I started to learn Perl. I quickly realized that Perl has a most fascinating feature: to me, code written in it still looked the same after RSA encryption. Other than that, it would not allow me to test my code at the command line, because the input from the HTTP request was missing. And when running my code through the webserver, thanks to the Common Gateway Interface (CGI), I was usually rewarded with an HTTP 500 error page. When a friend told me about PHP, I gladly jumped at it.

The first PHP version I used was 4.0b3. Many things were a bit rough around the edges, but I quickly discovered that there was a vibrant community, a good part rooted in Germany, contributing to PHP in one way or another. When the first issue of PHP Magazin was announced, I offered to contribute an article, which was accepted. When PHP 5 came out, we started to tell everybody that PHP was enterprise-ready, whatever that meant at the time. Around this time I started to present at conferences, and it seems I haven't done too bad, because many conferences kept inviting me back ever since.

Following one of my first conference presentations, somebody figured that I had a topic to talk about (because I had given a presentation on it), and I could type (because I had written articles before), so I should become a book author. It seems he was right. Around 2007, at some PHP conference, I was asked to do PHP trainings. The idea of doing a training that would feature three one-day workshops by three different trainers was born.

This started my collaboration with Arne Blankerts and Sebastian Bergmann, which in 2009 was formalized when we co-founded thePHP.cc and subsequently gave up our "other" professions to focus on sharing experience on PHP and related web technologies. I feel blessed to be able to work with these two very talented gentlemen. It still amazes me how much we have learned from each other in countless hours of constructive discussions about IT problems. Plus, we have helped quite a few customers to build some very cool solutions.

I am happily married, and a father of twins, who recently turned five years old. I enjoy my work a lot, and I can make a living on PHP and feed my family. All this is possible because of one Rasmus Lerdorf and countless others who continue to believe in the freedom of Open Source, and spend part of their lives to make the world a better place.

This is 2015, and I hold university lectures, teaching students that PHP is very well suited for serious software development. Happy birthday, PHP. I am glad you are here. Thank you so much for making 80% of the world wide web possible, and allowing me to live the life I live today.