PHP development began in 1994 when the developer Rasmus Lerdorf wrote a series of Common Gateway Interface (CGI) Perl scripts, which he used to maintain his personal homepage. The tools performed tasks such as displaying his résumé and recording his web traffic. He rewrote these scripts in C for performance reasons, extending them to add the ability to work with web forms and to communicate with databases, and called this implementation "Personal Home Page/Forms Interpreter" or PHP/FI.
PHP/FI could be used to build simple, dynamic web applications. Lerdorf initially announced the release of PHP/FI as "Personal Home Page Tools (PHP Tools) version 1.0" publicly to accelerate bug location and improve the code, on the comp.infosystems.www.authoring.cgi Usenet discussion group on June 8, 1995. This release already had the basic functionality that PHP has as of 2013. This included Perl-like variables, form handling, and the ability to embed HTML. The syntax resembled that of Perl but was simpler, more limited and less consistent.
Early PHP was not intended to be a new programming language, and grew organically, with Lerdorf noting in retrospect: "I don’t know how to stop it, there was never any intent to write a programming language […] I have absolutely no idea how to write a programming language, I just kept adding the next logical step on the way. A development team began to form and, after months of work and beta testing, officially released PHP/FI 2 in November 1997.
Many high-profile open-source projects ceased to support PHP 4 in new code as of February 5, 2008, because of the Go PHP5 initiative, provided by a consortium of PHP developers promoting the transition from PHP 4 to PHP 5.
PHP interpreters are available on most existing 32-bit and 64-bit operating systems, either by building them from the PHP source code, or by using pre-built binaries. For the PHP versions 5.3 and 5.4, the only available Microsoft Windows binary distributions were 32-bit x86 builds, requiring Windows 32-bit compatibility mode while using Internet Information Services (IIS) on a 64-bit Windows platform. PHP version 5.5 made the 64-bit x86-64 builds available for Microsoft Windows.