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22/1/2016

RasmusLerdorf,fatherofPHP:Programmingisboring

Rasmus Lerdorf, father of PHP: Programming is boring

13JAN2016
13JAN2016

RasmusLerdorfatEtsy’sDublinoffice,imagesviaLukeMaxwell

WesitdownwithRasmusLerdorf,creatorof

theprogramminglanguagePHP,tofindout

whyhehatescoding,lovesEtsyandisthe

onlyLatinoEskimoinCalifornia.

“Ifindprogrammingboringandtedious,”startsLerdorf,thecreatorofa

programminglanguagesoubiquitoustocomputingthatitmeansthat

statementthrowsyoualittle.Callinghimselfanengineerratherthana

programmer,solvingproblemsiswhathe’sallabout.

“Theendproduct,”hesays,“iswhatinterestsme.”

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RasmusLerdorf,fatherofPHP:Programmingisboring

Asnazzyspot

WemeetinEtsy’sprettysnazzyDublinoffice,withLerdorfworkingas

anengineerforthecompanyforafewyearsnowafterhisroleas

adviserstartedreachingabitbeyondthetitle.

“Etsygrewlargeenoughtoaffordme,”hejokes,butreallyhishistory

atYahoo–wherehespentsevenyears–withEtsy’screatorsmeanthe’s

hadhisfingersinthecompanypiesinceveryearlyon.

Henotesthatcomputersciencepuristslovetheartofcoding,“ifthe

algorithmiscool,iftheintegrationispretty,they’rehappy,”hesays.

“Forme,it’sallabouttheendproduct,nothowIgotthere.”

Programmingisaprocesstowardscreatingagoodonlineservice,much

likeflyingisaprocesstogethimfromSanFranciscotoDublin.“Ihate

flying,”hesays,“butI’mhere.”

flying,”hesays,“butI’mhere.” Takingthescenicroute

Takingthescenicroute

Sohowdidhegethere,intoaDublinofficethatseemsremarkably,

well,American?BorninGreenland,LerdorfleftforDenmarkatjust

threeyearsofage.

FromtherehemovedtoTorontoat13,attendingtheUniversityof

WaterloobeforespendingthreeyearsinBrazil,asojournintoNorth

CarolinaandhiscurrentresidencyinSanFrancisco.

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RasmusLerdorf,fatherofPHP:Programmingisboring

Hecallshimself“theonlyLatinoEskimoinCalifornia,”atitlehe

claimsonthebackoftickingaboxonanofficialformwhenheentered

thestatemanyyearsago.

Allinall,Lerdorfhasresidedinmanyahome,learningmanya

language,butit’shiscomputertonguethatismostnotable.PHPisa

programminglanguagethatdraggedtheinternetworldacrossthe

laboriousdesertofCandhelpedformwhattodayisawildlyintuitive

onlinecommunity.

The’90s,eh?

Backinthemid­90s,Lerdorfwasprettyunderwhelmedattheoptions

availabletowebdesign.CandPerlwerefartootime­consumingfor

whattheinternetwasitchingtobecome:fast,responsiveand

immenselyeditable.

Whenthewebbeganhittingthemainstream,companieswereina

frenzy,theywantedtoembraceitandtheirbestidea,atfirst,wastoput

theirdocumentationuponline.

theirdocumentationuponline.

“Withthistheywenttotheirtechnicalwritersandgotthemtoputstuff

outthere,”hesays,onlyfortheprocesstokickstartalowpointin

programming,withtechnicalwritersbecomingwebdesignersby

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default.

RasmusLerdorf,fatherofPHP:Programmingisboring

“TheywenttoMicrosoftWord,saveddocumentsasHTML,thenput

themonlineviaFTP.Fine,”hesays,“untilcompanieswantedthese

documents,orotherpages,tobemoredynamic.”

Dynamism,ontheclock

TheproblemthatfacedLerdorfwassomethingmanyhadnoticed.He

wantedtofindawaytoproducethingslikedifferentiterationsofa

companycontactpagethatworkedatdifferenttimes.Oftenjustminor

tweaks,likephonenumbersalternates,requiredrecodinganentirepage.

AtonofCorModCGI,primarily.

Lerdorfneededasolution.WorkinginCGI(notthespecialeffects),he createdsomelibrariesandgraduallycreatedPHP,whichispartofthe

backendofupto80pcofallwebsitesnowadays.

PHP7wasreleasedattheendoflastyear,farremovedfromthe

original,“butsomeoftheoriginalcodewouldstillwork”heenthuses.

SomesaytheimprovementsinPHP7areactuallyquiteremarkable,

reportsof100pcspeedincreases,forexample,havesurfaced.But

compatibilitywasthekeydriver.

“Oneofthethingswewantedtodoismakesurewedidn’tcreatea

Python2toPython3­typeofissue.IfyouhavedecentlywrittenPHP5

codeitshouldworkperfectlyin7,”hesays,citingDmitryStogov,

XinchenHuiandNikitaPopovasthekeydriversofthenewlanguage.

PHP:wearehugelyreliantonit

ThelikesofFacebook,CurrencyFair,Wikipedia,Tumblr,Mailchimp,

Flickr,YahooandEtsyarejustsomeoftheplethoraofmajoronline

websitesthatrelylargelyonPHP.ThelattertwoarecompaniesLerdorf

isquicktocommenton.

“IworkedwithYahooforsevenyears,butitcangetdemoralisingwhen

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RasmusLerdorf,fatherofPHP:Programmingisboring

youworkinanad­centricwebcompany.Youareessentiallyfighting

yourusers.Youtrytopushadvertisingontothem,theytrytoavoidit.”

Itellhimthathehasjustdescribedthevastmajorityoftheonlineworld

andhestopsme:“Iknow,it’sveryhard,butatEtsyI’mhappy.Weare

providingahellofalotmoretoourcustomersthanweareextracting.

Andwe’renottrickingcustomerseither.”

Andwe’renottrickingcustomerseither.” Craftythinking

Craftythinking

Witharound800employeesoverall,and46inDublin,Lerdorftellsme

anynewengineerstartinginEtsy(ofwhichtherewillbemore,soon)

mustproducesomenewpackageontheirfirstday.

Notaplacetodragyourheels,butthenagainhedoesn’texpecttowork

withanytwo­bitprogrammers.Andhe’squicktopointoutPHPisn’t

thebe­allandend­all.“Likethespokenword,differentlanguagesare

createdindifferentareas,therewillneverbeone.”SoPython,Rubyor

whatever,haveatit.

Thereisonerequirementheputsonfuturecolleagues,though,andit’s

somethingwe’veheardafewpeoplediscussinrecentyears:an

understandingofC.

Despiteitslaboriousnature,Cunderpinsprettymucheverythingonline,

22/1/2016

RasmusLerdorf,fatherofPHP:Programmingisboring

withLerdorf“alittlesceptical”ofanyprogrammerwithoutan

understandingofit.

Butthenhehastorunofftocatchadreadedflight,abitmoreprocess

beforethenextendproject,so.Hisflyingvisit,whichtookinaPHP

meet­upinDublin,isover.

Slidesfrom@rasmus'talktonight

—PHPDublin(@PHPDublin)January12,2016