One of the projects I started late last year was learning some non-Microsoft technologies, one being PHP; a scripting language that is used behind websites in order to provide more dynamic features than ordinary HTML is capable of. PHP has been in use since 1995 and is one of the most widely available web technologies. If you depend on outside web hosting services to host a website like I do, you can pretty much count on your hosting service supporting PHP scripting.
My own experience with PHP is still at the academic stage and certainly not ready to be advertised on the resume but the basics of the language aren’t hard to learn, especially for someone already familiar with basic programming concepts. A basic example of a PHP script would look something like this:
<?php echo "Today's date is ".date("l, F d, Y")."."; ?>
This script could be inserted anywhere in the body of an HTML web page and would produce the following output:
The opening and closing <?php … ?> tags are what signal to the PHP processor on the web server that the content between the tags is to be processed as PHP code. Pages using PHP scripting are also often named with a .php extension instead of the normal .htm or .html extensions. The echo command on the second line instructs PHP to output the following content to the page and it calls the date() function which outputs the current date and formats it as needed.
Aside from being a relatively easy language to learn, PHP is also easy in terms of cost and resources. No special software is needed beyond your favorite HTML or text editor and there’s a wealth of information on the web. As with other languages, it’s just a matter of learning some basics and then getting in there and working with it to get experience.
As I said, there’s a lot of good information on the web, too.
W3 Schools has an introduction and reference to PHP:
I also like to start with Wikipedia when learning about a new subject. I find that, at the very least, it can point me in new directions.
If you’re interested in programming and want to work on websites, PHP is a valuable skill to have. As an exercise, go to one of the larger job search sites like CareerBuilder.com or Monster.com and do a keyword or skill search on the job listings for PHP. This is a helpful way to gauge the demand for any skill.