While Apple's pioneering work to invent the modern PC with the Macintosh is the most-discussed of milestone moments from the company, it's the return of Steve Jobs that's the vote winner in a recent Macworld Online poll.

We asked site visitors to vote for what they saw as Apple's most significant moment of the last 30 years, and 38 per cent (538 of 1,405 votes) of readers chose the return of company co-founder Steve Jobs as the most significant moment.

The invention of personal computing counts

Discussions related to the poll showed a different story.

Despite only 267 readers (19 per cent) voting the first Macintosh as the most significant moment, opinionated readers regard Apple's move to implement technologies developed at Xerox Parc within the first Macintosh as pivotal - not just to the company - but also to the development of personal computing.

"If it hadn't been for the Mac in 1984, Jobs would have had nothing to come back to," one reader wrote.

Looking at the historical events around the invention of personal computing, a reader explained: "There was an exodus to Apple from Xerox Parc. Apple purchased the right to have a look around, and re-implemented some of the ideas. Things like QuickDraw, which was fantastically powerful, blew Xerox's graphics system out of the water, mainly because the guy who wrote it saw the Parc stuff and thought it could do a whole lot more."

Apple's fait accompli in terms of implementing technologies such as a graphical user interface, mouse and keyboard is all the more amazing because: "Xerox had all that talent and advanced research and wasn't prepared to do anything with it. At the time the undisputed colossus of the photocopying world had become a great, lumbering dinosaur."

Apple's Jobs is future-focused

But having Apple co-founder Steve Jobs at the helm continues to focus the company on what's happening next: "They always have an eye on tomorrow. IT companies can't afford just to think about competing in today's market - I think that's the reason behind the contrasting fortunes of Dell and Apple. The real genius is in the strategy."

Macworld Online readers also showed a more pragmatic side as they ruminated on Apple's 30-year history.

Inevitable evolution

"Apple's success is due to a sequence of incremental steps, each one building on what's gone before," a reader wrote, reflecting, "It's not very meaningful to isolate one of those steps and give it special significance."

Looking at the steps of Apple's evolution, some considered if the company would still exist if it's iMac hadn't contributed so much to the company's reinvention.

"Would an iMac designed by someone other than Jonathan Ive have been as successful?"

Each step has had a built-in risk, a reader believes: "Would Apple have survived if Jobs didn't return? Would Macs still sell if BeOS had been chosen above NeXT, and would any of what we're using today have been around if it weren't for the first Mac and PowerBook?"

"Each step is as significant as each other, but you can't ignore the work and vision that Jobs has put into Apple over the last 30 years, even when he wasn't at Apple he was developing what became Mac OS X."

All things matter

Significant event after significant event characterises the success of the company. "Every one of the ten events cited have had major impact on the evolution and direction of Apple and in turn, the whole industry," a reader concluded.

The full results of the poll, in order of preference, are:

1997: Steve Jobs returns, 538 votes. 38 per cent;
1984: Launch of the Mac, 267 votes, 19 per cent;
1998: iMac introduced, 164 votes, 12 per cent;
2001: iPod launched, 154 votes, 11 per cent;
2001: Mac OS X released, 117 votes, 8 per cent;
2005: The Intel migration, 75 votes, 5 per cent;
1992: Jonathan Ive joins Apple, 56 votes, 4 per cent;
2003: iTunes Music Store launch, 21 votes, 1 per cent;
1994: First PowerMac, 7 votes, accounted as under 1 per cent;
1991: First PowerBook, 6 votes, accounted as under 1 per cent.