Twenty years ago today, Rasmus Lerdorf, the creator of PHP announced to the world the release of a collection of scripts to help developers build web pages that do more than HMTL can do on its own. Here we are, 20 years later and PHP is running something like 80% of the web. That’s pretty impressive! I’ve been working with PHP for most of that time but haven’t ever written down how that came to be. I started working on PHP back in the late 90’s, probably 1998 based on what I remember. I’ve thought it was 1997 but based on the timeframe, I don’t think that is right. I remember working with PHP 3 and then shortly afterwards upgrading to PHP 4.
My start with PHP happened back in college. One of my professors had some NSF (National Science Foundation) money for the ACM-W (Association of Computing Machinery’s Women in Computing) to build something that would allow you to more easily find articles about women in computing/technology. At this time, Google was basically a twinkle in the eye of Page and Brin. So I did some research about how I could get something on the web. I think ASP was there but that came with licensing. I stumbled on PHP and a few tutorials from WebMonkey.com. I’m certain this was not great code and the site I produced was likely jammed full of SQL injection and XSS issues and some terrible database design (model tables after Excel spreadsheets anyone?). But we had a working interactive site that allowed users to search and find articles about women in tech and computing. You could search by author, title, publication, year, etc. It was AMAZING. Much of it was extremely procedural and definitely mixed PHP with HTML. I built, ran and tested it on a server called OmniHTTP because it was available for free on windows and I could hook PHP into it.