It seems like an eternity ago now, but my first "real" web development language was Java. I had done some dynamic-ish web sites prior to Java. I built a web interface to an anonymous FTP archive using shell scripts to parse description text files and assemble HTML. I started using Perl for some more sophisticated text parsing, but I was still working with flat files. I knew the next step was using a database, but that wasn't an option with Perl at the time. Java was getting a lot of press and it seemed like a good way to go. My first e-commerce site was build on a Solaris server using Apache and Tomcat and a MySQL database. If there was a Solaris equivalent of apt-get or yum, I hadn't heard of it. I downloaded sources and compiled my own. JSP was released in 1999. I continued to develop in Java and was getting into J2EE when the entire Utah office was laid off in 2003.
I ended up getting a job with a multimedia company that I was kind of excited about. Flash MX and AS3 had just been released and was the next cool thing. I thought I'd be getting the opportunity to get more into Flash development. I was wrong. I ended up being the company's only web developer working in...wait for it...ASP. I still feel dirty. I quit that job and started freelancing in 2006. Looking around at hosting options, PHP was by far the most ubiquitous. Java hosting was almost non-existent. So I made the jump to PHP and the rest is, as they say, history.
Now at my current job we have a web site that was built in Java years ago. How my company ended up supporting the site is a long convoluted story. How I ended up working on it is quite simple. Our Java guy quit and I was the only one who had any Java experience at all. It's been quite the headache. The site was originally developed on a proprietary framework. Essentially the purveyors of said framework said, "We're not interested in supporting you any more. Here's the source code. Now go away." I have a huge 300+ page training manual that is a fine testament to the pointless destruction of trees, but is otherwise useless. We don't even have all the source files. Despite the frustration, I find myself missing Java. Maybe it's just nostalgia, but I think it's the structure I miss. PHP is growing up and moving more in that direction, but there are still plenty of developers out there content to write code like it's 1999. I'm not saying Java is some magic bullet for crap code. You can write crap code regardless of the language you use. The memory problems I'm having with a cron from this Java site are a testement to that. I think I finally have fixed it so the garbage collector isn't thrashing, but it still doesn't manage memory very well. I digress. The point is, I'm feeling like I'd like to brush up on my Java skills.
I'm sure there are plenty who have gone before. Going boldy just means it's just time to jump in with both feet. My history with side projects isn't great, but I've been winding down other committments so hopefully I'll be able to make this work.