A programming language starts decaying right after inception. The idea that a language is perfect soon hits the harsh reality of users running into situations the author(s) have not anticipated.
The law of the instrument mentions the following statement by Abraham Maslow:
I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.
It takes a long time to learn how to use a tool effectively. This leads programmers to use a familiar language when they are confronted with building something new. I think this is true for all tools. One of my hammers, the PHP language, has been around since 1994 and it is being used by 78% of all websites (source: W3Techs). PHP is showing its age and the idea of it being replaced by something new and fresh has been gaining momentum for a long time.
When you look at any programming language, given enough time to mature, you will notice the question of retirement come up. You can see how this is just a google search away: “Is this language dead?“. I found questions about all popular programming languages.
The concept of dead languages reminds me of the language I had to learn as a student, COBOL. It was created around 1960, and now it so old that modern technologists have completely forgotten about it. No-one is raving about how amazing it is, no new courses are popularly teaching it and most people just want it to go away, but in the midst of all this, COBOL is still alive and is being used by many financial institutions. COBOL solves a very real business problem and so does PHP.
The simplicity that PHP affords those who learn it and the ease of getting from 0 to 1 makes it a heavyweight in the website programming languages league. It allows people to test out ideas faster and cheaper than any alternative out there.
This old programming language is just fine for building websites and web-based solutions. It can be the final solution or act as a prototyping tool. It is a gateway to the world of programming. A way to think about problems and address the needs of your users.
Relevancy has everything to do with the problems you solve and nothing to do with the tools you use. If you solve relevant problems with ancient tools, you’ve still solved a real problem. Yes, the tools can make certain classes of problems easier to deal with but ease is relevant. PHP was my gateway into the world of programming and a way to understanding and learn other languages.
This old language is fine for solving problems, great at being used as a hammer for most nails and great as a teaching tool while learning about its weakness and where it may not be the best tool for the job.
The main thing I take away from all the language conversations is this. We have customers and clients who need our skills to solve problems. If the Hammer works use it, if not find a working tool quickly and solve the problem and don’t allow perfection to stand in the way of good enough.