I am currently a senior Ruby on Rails programmer. This article is my tribute to PHP the language that introduced me to the real world.
I have been programming or aspiring to program (former/recovering imposter syndrome addict) since I was a child. You can say I was programming as well if you consider lego programming and hello world in turbo c as programming. During upper primary and high school I spend my time learning Java, C and C++. Creating a lot of command line applications, and being appreciated for how good and fast I was at implementing them, solving small problems and writings algorithms.
But the sad things for me at that point was it never felt like real world programming. I was seeing a lot of web and desktop applications, but had no idea how to make them. Any book I could find on them were way over my head, and blow to the self confidence of little me.
Then comes a fruitful summer vacation. Where I felt like the universe finally decided it was time for me to understand the real wold and introduced me to PHP + MySQL. A lot of magazine article I was reading in Digit and PCQuest finally made sense. (How these magazines helped me is a story on it own). I finally understood the web, I was installing Joomla, Drupal, PHPBB, Simple Machine Forum, TinyCMS, (anything and everything free and open source) the list of softwares were many. I was writing my own contact forms, websites, customization. Editing and modifying CSS files, working on free templates, installing photoshop, it really took a teenager from 0 to 60.
The thing I understand now, looking back is that PHP + MySQL was and still is a powerful combination. (MySQL was owned by sun and more free and open source back then). Its so powerful that it is capable of making beginners and novice developers build amazing things. The simplicity of this combination, and I feel it was only after 2005 that this simplicity spread to other technology. But nothing could be as simple as running a small php script on a webserver. So simple and elegant that no other technology can introduce such masses to real world programming in comparison.
Back then while working alone with PHP there was no notion of good code and bad code at that point. The only notion was working code and not working code. I personally felt this simplicity was the reason for all the bad things we hear or used to hear about PHP. Anyone could create real world websites easily and when you do it for your first time its not always good. But I don’t believe it to be a drawback of the language, but a testament of its more important advantage simplicity.
So simple that anyone could use it to build anything for the web.