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The father of PHP

I was so fortunate to have a chat with the Father of PHP (the programming/scripting language, not Philippine Peso) Rasmus Lerdorf last Thursday in Makati City during the PHP Conference Philippines 2016. The Greenlandic-Danish programmer is in Manila for the conference, where he was the keynote speaker.

I asked him to tell the story of how he created PHP and as a fanboy, myself hearing it straight from Rasmus is the best thing one would wish. According to him, “I needed a tool for myself. I didn’t set out to create for anybody else. Just solving the web problem and the tools at that time was 1993 or so; I didn’t like any of them out there. I had written a whole bunch of CGI programs in C (programming language) and eventually I collected all the code I kept on using over and over. Came into a reusable component behind a very simple templating system so that I could deploy very quickly, every time I needed to do another web solution. And overtime, other people picked up the fact that I was doing it really fast and the concept seems to gel with them; people saw that the template-based approach and have that callout into C via simple template texts was a very approachable way of solving that web problem.”

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When asked on how he sees PHP five to ten years from now, his response was:

“It’s kinda asking me, ‘where’s the Web going to be five to ten years from now?’ We have no idea, right? I mean, currently lots of micro services are happening, PHP is less and less serving up HTML and more and more serving up XML and JSON. Mobile is big, but most mobile apps still need a server component to do central depository and coordination of all the mobile clients. Lots of client-side stuff is happening in Swift and JavaScript, but we still need a central component and PHP is perfectly suited for small, micro service type of requests. But that’s today. Where’s the Web in ten years? Is VR going to be everything in ten years? Maybe nobody uses a phone or a web browser anymore. Maybe it’s all glasses? But even then, you would still need a central database of some kind. You will need short requests. I think PHP will stick for a very long time for things like that.”

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“The interesting thing with geeks is that they are the same everywhere. I had travelled to a number of countries doing these things; met geeks from all over the world. Because of the Web and the Internet, we are all influenced by the same things. We end up reading the same articles and when people ask me in a specific country: geeks are geeks, which is kind a cool thing. Everywhere I go, geeks are fighting the same technical problems. They have the same problems within their companies, with management getting their way. It’s marketing versus engineering. Same topics come up everywhere. In the Philippines, developers get a little bit of ‘we cannot compete’ which is a complete nonsense. The Internet is here. You can do and build just the same things, that can be built anywhere else in the world. Probably, even easier in the Philippines? Building stuff in a country with a much stronger economy also means that salaries and benefits are much higher and it’s a little bit easier sometimes compared to countries where the economy is struggling a little bit to get a big team together and actually to get stuff done.

My one message to Filipino geeks: you can do amazing things, there are a lot of smart people in this country.