PHP is just fine

hammers in a row

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.

When are you proficient in a programming language?

Learning a programming language gives you the opportunity to explore other problem domains alongside new approaches to addressing familiar problems.

I write this as I was looking for the answer to exactly this question. There were many opinions that had me confused, some from ancient rockstar ninjas who command CPUS at will and others from earnest people who are also seeking.

Why would one ask such a question in the first place? It seems like the actual issue is 2 fold. For me it is firstly; when can this go on my resume. Secondly and probably more specific to me: when to move on to the next language or skill. When can I check off my to-do list and say that I know a programming language?

After looking at many other ideas, In my opinion: You are proficient in a language when you are able to read, understand and debug code along with deploying to production.

If you can read, write and execute you are well on your way and I would consider this profecient. Beyond this, optionally, persue mastery. Though in order to keep a language on your resume, make sure to continually read, understand and debug.

Link to other opinions:

Why I’m learning a new Programming Language called Go

For the past few years, I got stuck in a rut, a good one. My sole focus was not the technology I used. but rather the thought processes behind why and how I write code. I write in PHP and I mainly focus on the WordPress CMS. This pays the bills and helps me take care of my family but, while focusing on thought processes, I didn’t realise that learning a new language can have the same effect, helping me think differently about similar problems.

So why Go (#golang)? This one I stumbled upon by accident. A colleague of mine, Akeda, automated one of our workflows. Before this, we had a weird process involving multiple tools and steps. His script made life just a little easier. I thought one could improve it just a little bit more, but in oreder to do this I had to go digging into Go source code.

After hacking on this project and getting it “mostly working” I decided to dig a bit deeper into Go. I found out immediately that it was created by a few very smart people at Google. It is open source and has a very strong community. More specifically, Docker, the tool I use all the time, was written in Go(mind blown gif goes here).

With Go you to create systems software. I know my way around PHP and this is great, but there are a few things an interpreted language simply can’t do. This presented me with another opportunity to learn.

Go is written in Go! Yep, that means you can eventually read and contribute to any bugs in the language itself, if that’s something you’re interested in. I think it’s great that one only needs to learn on language to get involved with an entire commuinity.

Learning GO is free, no need to buy expensive books. Do the tour, then work through How to write go code and then read Effective Go. After this, you can start using the language. If you are new to programming you may need more help.

With Go, most of the tooling forms part of the language. The following things are already included: code documentation generation, testing, dependencies etc. In most languages I know these are third party tools. They may not work exactly how you want them to, but they work and they remove the burden of having to choose between third-party options. Though third-party options are available, the idea is that everything you need to be productive should be part of the language.

New languages force us to think differently about the same problems, as per this stack overflow answer:

It’s not about the next “new thing”. It’s about thinking in different ways outside of your normal thought patterns

I hope this inspires you to pick up a new language. There are so many to choose from.

Featured image is a gophers, the Go mascot. It was created with Creating a unique gopher.