June 9, 2015
by Matt Raines

My PHP Story

Matt Raines

Web programming language PHP was 20 years old yesterday and to celebrate Ben Ramsey wrote about his history with the language, and invited others to do the same.

I know I’m a day late but I’d like to share my story too.

In 2002 my friend Tim Prater had developed a website platform for 8 Liberal Democrat groups and approached me for help expanding it. He was using classic ASP but I chose to rewrite in PHP because it was cheaper and seemed more robust.

In the day job I had been using ASP and Java and in comparison getting started with PHP was a doddle. I could set it up myself with MySQL and Apache on our own (then virtual, now co-located) servers and on my desktop at home, and just get on with the coding.

It was also such an ease to learn. I stuck with it in those early years thanks, in no small part, to the excellent online documentation which remains to this day the quintessence of how to write online docs for a programming language.

Some time around 2004 I met then treasurer of PHP London Andrew Larssen, who introduced me to the group. I soon got roped into helping out as secretary, organising the pub meet-ups and the technical talks. By the time, in 2009, I first helped organise the PHP UK Conference I realised that I had come to love the people in the PHP community as much as the language itself. From first-timers at the pub to the big-wigs I wined and dined for the conference and all my permanent and contract colleagues in-between, everyone I’ve met through PHP has been inclusive, welcoming, and above all excited about what they get to do for a living. There’s way too many to thank personally, but I am grateful to you all for your help along the way.

The 8 Liberal Democrat sites became hundreds but we still have the site Tim got started with all those years ago (and, I am proud to say, the URL structure from 13 years ago still works). It’s gone through a myriad iterations and a complete rewrite using Symfony and as it (and I) have grown, PHP has grown with us. We started on 4.0 – or 4.1, I’m not exactly sure, although I do remember rewriting for superglobals – and are now hosting on 5.6. Every point release I get rather too much nerdy excitement out of one or other new feature (in 5.6 it’s definitely the splat operator). I now get to work with Drupal, WordPress, and Joomla as well as Symfony and a mass of bespoke code on various projects which have grown too over the years, and every day it’s still a pleasure to get started with work.

So there it is: came for the cost savings, stayed for the ease of use, fell in love with the people. What’s your #20yearsofphp story?