PHP turns 20 years old today. What was once a collection of libraries created by a Danish-Canadian programmer to make creating web sites easier is now powering a ridiculously high percentage of the internet. To all the PHP haters I say "CHECK THE SCOREBOARD".
I first encountered PHP either in 1997 or 1998. I literally cannot remember when I first used it. All I do remember is that I needed to find something that was free to use because the company I was working for at the time did not want to pay for licenses for using ASP.
I built my first PHP application -- a web site that allowed you to enter the name of an artist or song title and see if it existed in the MySQL database I set up using CSV dumps from a Microsoft Access database.
I had no idea that the decision to use PHP would end up being the thing that built a career that is now 18 years long and counting.
I quickly figured out there were other people using PHP -- my early searches using AltaVista revealed a whole world of other people stumbling around trying to figure out how to get PHP to do things. In retrospect it's surprising that PHP is still essentially a collection of wrappers around C libraries that are used to pull information out of databases and display them on a web page.
That led me to figure out a way to go to my first PHP conference back in 2005 in Toronto at the Holiday Inn across from the Yorkdale shopping centre. I harassed my manager to go, even offering to do a talk when I get back on the interesting things that I discovered. I think they eventually gave in just to shut me up, and two other colleagues of mine joined me for that conference.
True story -- I happened to walk into the hotel lobby at the same time as Derick Rethans and he mistook me for someone that he knew. Of course, I didn't know who he was at the time but I quickly figured it out. Brush with greatness!
That was also the first time I got to see Rasmus speak at a conference. His talks haven't really changed that much over the past 10 years -- same sort of slides, and he just keeps showing us more and more why PHP is still one of the best tools for building web applications.
Once I went to that conference, I was hooked. I wanted to be part of this bigger community. I think watching people give presentations flipped the bits in my brain related to teaching. As the son of a high school teacher I suppose the potential was always lurking in there. I spoke at a conference for the first time in 2006 (I spoke about what PHP folks could learn from the success of Ruby on Rails) and I decided I never wanted to stop doing it.
Speaking gave me the confidence to experiment and try and do things that I really wanted to do. I got involved in an open source project (CakePHP) and perfected my trolling skills on the mailing list. I tried to find other people who thought that automated tests would save their future selves from their current selves. All the while trying to get more involved in the PHP community.
This led to more talks, and books, and videos, and still more talks, and a PHP user group, and even more talks, and flying to Europe to speak, and more books, and even helping to organize a PHP conference.
The awesome career (and I know it is the height of ego to suggest that you have an awesome career, but I do not think you can look at what I have done objectively and not say it's turned out really, really well) I have is 100% because of PHP.
At times when I worried more about making money than being happy I thought about switching away from PHP. In fact, back in 2005 I turned down a job with a friend of mine where I would've morphed into a very early Ruby on Rails adopter. I have no idea what would've happened, but somehow I think that you could do 's/PHP/Ruby/g' in my life and it would've been pretty close.
One person's creation has ended up powering the careers of thousand and thousands of people. Thanks Rasmus for helping me unlock my potential and create a PHP monster who has shared his thoughts on Twitter more than 70000 times.