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Anders Björkland
Anders Björkland

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Dashing through the Web - origin of PHP

Just the Gist

In the early Web, a recent graduate from University of Waterloo wanted to track number of visitors to his online resume. To do this he wrote a script-parser in the C language. Eventually this evolved into PHP: Hypertext Processor, PHP as we know it today. Now there are now many contributors to the language but it started with Rasmus Lerdorf.

The story

It was the early days of the Web. From CERN a computer scientist had spent time developing a method of using the Internet to share files and documents through standards that have stood the test of time. We've got HTML, URIs and HTTP and it all was written by Sir Tim Berners-Lee and published in 1990. In 1994 he founded the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) to develop a standard for the Internet. But this is not about Sir Tim, but the technologies he helped to create paved the way for so many people. One of these people were Rasmus Lerdorf.

In 1993 Rasmus had graduated with a Bachelor of Applied Science in Systems Design Engineering. He applied his know-how to track the number of visitors his online resume was getting. But at the time there were no handy tools for him to do so. Instead he wrote a set of tools in the C programming language - which he came to call "Personal Home Page Tools", or "PHP Tools". These were scripts he could use interspersed in HTML. PHP Tools were first being used in 1994 and came to the open source world in 1995. It took another iteration upon this to add a database layer. By the 3rd iteration, PHP became recognizable as the language we are now using to build websites. This iteration was driven by the need to support eCommerce websites, not only personal home pages. A small group of people (Rasmus included) started the total rewrite of the language, and it was released in 1998 in it's fourth version. The language was now renamed to PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor (PHP).

From 1998 and onward, the development of PHP has been a global collaborative effort. It may all have started with one person, but we are now a community of people who are working together to make it better.

What's next?

We have many days to go to Christmas, and in the days leading up to it, we are going to see many different sides to the PHP language. We have just glimpsed the origins of PHP, but there is so much more. We will see the open source nature of the language, some interesting projects, and perhaps the Christmas spirit. 🤶🎅🎄🎁🎉🐘

Are there any particular subject you hope to see in this series? If so, please comment below ✍

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