20 Years with PHP

Here's to the next 20 years

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Today is the 20th birthday of PHP. I owe my career to this programming language (among other things). In the past 8 years I have gone from building some of the sorriest websites and applications to holding a great job and spending everyday programming in an environment that I enjoy and having a job can provide a comfortable living for my family and I.

My Story

In celebration of this day I wanted to share my story of how PHP has contributed to my life.

My story starts in highschool. I started dabbling in websites when I was in the 11th grade. I had no idea what I was doing, but I thought it was great that I could put this design together on Frontpage and have a live site online. It was exciting but I didn't even know how to write HTML and I had no idea what a CSS file was. But I kept on dabbling and I learned as I went along.

Fast forward a few years and I get a job at a startup building websites for churches. I still didn't know PHP or even Javascript, but I had a hand on HTML and CSS, so I was able to contribute and learn at a faster rate.

Learning PHP

Our websites were hard-coded HTML files. We purchased this small program that we could install on our shared server that allowed our customers to log in and edit pages. We could then include these pages in our HTML files using script tags. We thought it was awesome. We had no idea what Wordpress was, or what PHP was or anything, but it was cool that we had pages that could be edited without touching the HTML.

This went on for a little while, and we quickly discovered that creating HTML files for each page led to hard-to-manage websites. So I was given the task of finding a way to fix that problem. I started looking at the code of our little program and bought this book. I began to learn little by little how to use PHP and databases. I was so proud of myself when I edited our program enough to dynamically create, edit, and delete pages. I was a programmer!

I continued to develop this little program and added features as we needed them. My boss was great and telling customers that we could do things even though we had never done anything comparable in the past. But he knew we could figure out how. Our little "program" grew into our first proprietary CMS.

At that time, I had no idea that there was a PHP community, that there were best practices, what OOP was, or anything. I was just this guy who learned a few PHP functions. The CMS was built entirely using procedural code in one gargantuan PHP file. Looking back, I am surprised our websites even worked.

Eventually I learned OOP, I learned how to use include(), and I grew as a developer. But the company I was working for fell under hard times and eventually had to let me go.

Growing Up

I ended up getting another job as a web developer. It was here where I started following other devs on Twitter and reading dev blogs. I was able to go to my first conference, Zendcon. I discovered my first framework, Code Igniter. Then I discovered a better framework, Laravel. I discovered great places to learn how to code, like Laracasts and Code Academy.

My professionalism and skills expanded rapidly. My pay also grew rapidly. I went from no car and living with my parents to purchasing a brand new car, building a house, getting married, and starting a retirement account within two years.

There have been many factors that have contributed to my good fortune and PHP is certainly not the biggest contributor, but today is PHP's birthday, and I thank PHP for being one of those contributors. It wasn't Ruby or Python or C or Java; it was PHP.

I still have a lot to learn. There is a great deal of skill and knowledge out there for me to claim. But I am grateful for where I am and what I have achieved with PHP thus far and am looking forward to all the future has to offer. So here is to the next 20 years.

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