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PHP’s Paamayim Nekudotayim – The Secret’s in the Code


Do you know what a Paamayim Nekudotayim is? Are you a web developer or software engineer? Well come on, spit it out then (saying these words caused me to accidentally spit on my girlfriend’s arm, she wasn’t very impressed). If you’ve used PHP (Hypertext Preprocessor) to create your websites you would have come across these strange words. But, why are they there? I mean, computer languages are strange and different compared with normal human beings’ tongues, but this is just too weird.

As you might know PHP 3.0 was created by the Zend team, and it was powered by the Zend Engine 0.5. O.K., now we’re getting somewhere. Where do people come up with names like ‘Zend’? It doesn’t sound very cool like, ‘Flash’, ‘Dreamweaver’, or ‘Jaguar’ (the former was put in for car maniacs). Zend is simply a combination of the first two names of the engine’s (PHP not Jaguar) makers: Andi Gutmans and Zeev Suraski. Now, you could say that these guys don’t have much of an imagination, but I don’t think you’d be on the mark.

A mark: that’s what these guys were leaving when they created that name. They made a small mark in the history of humanity; they created something, and left their initials on it so that others might know that it was individual human effort that created the technology. That brings us to those oh-so-weird words again: Paamayim Nekudotayim. Hmmm, did you know that these guys came from Israel?

Within PHP there is what’s known as a ‘Scope Resolution Operator’ or (::). This double colon is a ‘token that allows access to static, constant, and overridden members or methods of a class.’ (See: It is also called Paamayim Nekudotayim or double-colon in Hebrew. So you see, the guys were also having a bit of fun, and though the words are strange and complex…they’ve stuck.

Pray tell, what does this tell you about the world of computers and technology? It shows a very important and significant fact indeed. Technology is not created by itself. It is a force that is being constantly created and updated by individual members of humanity. Technology, including the most incredible form of it today-computer science, is simply an extension of humanity’s collective will. Individuals make their mark so that they can be recognised or remembered by future generations, or just friends, for reasons altruistic, egotistical, or fun. However, the real epiphany lies in recognising that we are technology, and we better not forget it.

Is technology like PHP great, or are the people who created it and use it for the betterment of the world?


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