Rasmus Lerdorf

Computer Code Inventor

Attended KCSS • 1983–1988

Inducted 2008

The man who created PHP computer language.

I was born on Disco Island off the west coast of Greenland and spent my early years in Denmark. I moved to Canada with my parents in 1980 and to King City in 1983 to start grade 9 at KCSS.

When I wasn’t playing soccer or basketball I was fiddling with the school’s computers. Initially they were Commodore PET, followed by the very interesting Unisys ICON, also known as the bionic beaver. This machine ran the UNIX-like QNX operating system and since it was built specifically for Ontario schools, nobody knew anything about them. There was no software for them, so, my friend, Ben Eng and I, spent a lot of time writing bits and pieces of software for them. I also ended up teaching an evening adult education computer class and a teacher accreditation class. I think this early exposure to UNIX, networking and teaching set the stage for my later interests.

After King, I got a Systems Design Engineering degree from Waterloo. I loved the co-op program there and worked all over Canada. I ended up with my final two work terms working for a company called Nutec in Porto Alegre, Brazil. I stayed with this software company after I graduated, but they relocated me to Silicon Valley in 1993. The Web was just starting to emerge and I was hooked right away. When Nutec didn’t move quickly enough towards the Web, I quit and moved back to Toronto to do consulting work. As part of this consulting work I put together the first version of a Web scripting language now known as PHP and I also did some early work on the Apache web server.

My first large web project was the UTorDial project at U of T. It was a system that allowed students and faculty to get online via a pool of dialup modems. The projects got incrementally bigger after that. I worked on projects for Bell Global Solutions in Toronto and then moved to Research Triangle Park in North Carolina to join IBM’s WebSphere team. The dot-com boom was hitting right about then, and like so many others I ended up in Silicon Valley working for a startup that went under in the bust. But the one constant throughout these various jobs was that I was spending all my free time, and most of my working time as well on the PHP project which by then had grown into a huge open source project with hundreds of contributors.

I joined Yahoo! In 2002 to help them standardize their web serving platform on PHP. Making PHP work on the largest web destination in the world was a challenge I couldn’t pass up. My work on PHP and Yahoo! have taken me to hundreds of conferences, meeting thousands of people all over the world. I was fortunate enough to teach PHP to both Douglas Adams in London and Arthur C. Clarke in Sri Lanka before they died.

As strange as it may sound, I don’t actually like programming. My passion is for developing systems that simplify complicated problems. After 15 years of working on the Web problem it still holds my interest, but the next problem to solve may be to escape the hectic pace of life in Silicon Valley with my wife Christine and son Carl. I have no idea where we will end up, but I am sure I can find some interesting problems to solve there.


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