"Very few PHP developers ever compiled PHP manually." I had to smile when I read this! Now see here, son. I was compiling PHP when you were crawling around in diapers.
Seriously, I do seem to recall a time -- it had to be well over 10 years ago -- when I went to the PHP website and was informed that there were binaries for Windows but if you were using Linux you were expected to download and compile the source yourself. I honestly don't remember whether distro-specific PHP packages existed, or were a rarity, or maybe as a total noob I was simply unaware of them. But I definitely remember a lot of configure, make, make install, and a lot of dependency hell, and watching a lot of esoteric output pouring forth on my terminal window, while begging the gods to make it work. But oh, what a satisfying feeling of macho accomplishment when it finally worked! As if I really had anything to do with it beyond typing a few commands.
Does anyone else remember those days? It wasn't really that bad. In fact it was sort of fun, in a masochistic way.