Anyone over the age of 45 can probably tell you where they were when they learned that President John F. Kennedy had been assassinated. Your parents and grandparents can tell you what they were doing when Pearl Harbor was bombed. Likewise, you’ll remember where you were on Sept. 11, 2001. In fact, it’s likely that all of last year will be remembered for the horrific events that occurred on that single day.

So when TechRepublic editors created an annual survey about the year’s most significant events for IT, we realized that we needed to place the Sept. 11 tragedy in a category all its own. We already knew the terrorist attack was the most significant event of the year. Instead, we asked our members what lasting impact the attacks would have on IT.

The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks resulted in an increased focus on IT and security and the deepening economic downturn in the tech sector.

According to the respondents to the survey, the combined effect of continuing layoffs, dwindling resources, and dot-com failures created the top IT story of 2001. The downturn in the economy, in general, contributed to the overall decline in IT jobs.

The deteriorating economic climate was 2001’s top news story.

The IT industry witnessed many software innovations and releases in 2001,  including Microsoft’s introduction of Windows XP and Apple’s release of the Mac OS X. But despite the release of two new mainstream operating systems, respondents to the survey stated that the growing adoption of Linux represented the most significant advancement in software last year.

Linux wins as the top software advancement of 2001.

The survey’s respondents ranked the rapid development in processor speed as the top hardware innovation of 2001.

Breaking the speed barrier was the top hardware innovation story of the past year.

Once again, Bill Gates of Microsoft was voted the leading executive in the IT industry. (Gates also topped TechRepublic’s “Best of 2000” survey.) Oracle’s CEO, Larry Ellison, received only 10 percent of the votes in that category.

Even the charismatic Ellison was no match for Hewlett-Packard’s Carly Fiorina, HP’s executive officer. Fiorina spent the last half of 2001 championing a merger between HP and Compaq.

Gates won easily for the second year in a row.

Tell us what you think

Are you surprised by the survey’s results? Why or why not? What would you add to the survey’s results to make it a complete look at 2001 from your perspective? Start a discussion below or send us a note.