PHP is the most widely used web scripting language. It enables even relatively inexperienced programmers to develop dynamic web sites for virtually any web application under the Sun (this is an inside joke which will be explained below.) This article introduces PHP and its companions. First we will discuss a bit of PHP history.
PHP originally meant Personal Home Page when first created in 1994 right around the time that graphical web browsers started to bloom. It is a good thing that the name was changed. This programming language does a lot more than prepare personal home pages, which it happens to do very well. PHP now stands for Hypertext Preprocessor. You may think that the letters are in the wrong order, but this is an inside joke. Many PHP fans have a weird sense of humor.
PHP is part of the LAMP suite of open-source (free) software. The L stands for Linux, a Unix-based operating system that is a direct competitor to Microsoft Windows. To run LAMP on Windows computers you will perform two separate downloads, one for Linux and one for Easy PHP encompassing the remaining LAMP components. You can run these three components on virtually any Windows computer, even one that seemed ready for the garbage heap. To test your web programs you need a browser such as Internet Explorer or Firefox but you don’t need a live Internet connection.
The A in LAMP stands for Apache, the most widely used web server. You can run Apache alongside PHP, testing your PHP programs in a live environment.
The M in LAMP stands for MySQL, the most widely used database management system. Sun Microsystems recently purchased MySQL for more than one billion dollars. But don’t worry; this product remains free of cost for small and medium-sized systems. When your system gets big enough, you won’t mind paying the relatively small cost of the professional version of MySQL.
PHP runs on the server, the computer managed by Apache. Let me remind you that you don’t need two computers to run PHP and develop and test your website. When the time comes for other people to access your website you will have to host the site on the Web. This means naming your site and dealing with a web-hosting company. You will have to pay for your site name and in most cases you also pay for hosting your domain. The web hosting company may charge extra for Linux and MySQL services and support. Many webmasters claim that Linux offers a more professional environment. Others prefer the more familiar Microsoft Windows. It will be your choice.