It's been XVIII years since the San Francisco 49ers were last in the Super Bowl, but I'm not going to bore you with the differences in the price of a gallon of gas ($1.28 vs $3.70), who's in the White House (Bill Clinton vs. Barack Obama) or what the kids are listening to (Boyz II Men vs. Taylor Swift).

This is Silicon Valley and that's not the way we roll. We don't use tired yardsticks to measure the passage of time. We live on Internet time, which moves faster than dog years and elapses at an ever-accelerating speed.

Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, shown in this 1993 photo, became a billionaire in 1995, after Pixar went public. (AP File Photo/Kristy Macdonald)
Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, shown in this 1993 photo, became a billionaire in 1995, after Pixar went public. (AP File Photo/Kristy Macdonald) ( KRISTY MACDONALD )

How so? Consider that back in January 1995 there was no Facebook, no Twitter, no Google (GOOG). Zynga wasn't even a zygote. Grand, old Yahoo (YHOO) was around, but nobody had ever heard of it and people actually used printed directories (like phone books, if you remember those) to look up Web addresses.


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There were no iPhones, no iPads, no Apple (AAPL) vs. Samsung patent wars. We were devoid of the Droid. We lived without netbooks and with the truth that there was no cloud above where we could store all that was important.

If you were looking for a search engine the last time the 49ers went super bowling, you might have stumbled upon Netscape's Mosaic, which was a couple of months old. Netscape itself hadn't even gone public yet.

What's Netscape, you say? Never mind, it's come and gone in the time between 49ers Super Bowls.

It's no secret that technology moves forward at blinding speed. And that's been a way of life particularly here in the valley a few miles south of the 49ers' current home, Candlestick Park. But every now and then some event, some quirk of history, some moment, puts it all in stunning perspective.

Remember Super Bowl XXIX? Jan. 29, 1995: The 49ers teed it up against the San Diego Chargers at Joe Robbie Stadium in Miami. How did we even watch that thing? Sure, television had been invented by then, even wide screens. They just weighed 7,000 pounds. But beyond TV, well, we didn't have much.

If you were going to watch the game, your best bet was to sit in front of the live broadcast on TV. Forget TiVo. It didn't exist. If some drunken guest at your Super Bowl party stumbled in front of the screen at a key moment, that moment was gone. Unless you were running VHS that you could replay on your VCR the next day.

And what if you couldn't be in front of a TV for the entire 10-hour Super Bowl broadcast? How did you ever keep tabs on it? No Slingbox, no ESPN app, NFL app or theScore app. You might have turned to your Walkman, provided it had the AM/FM radio feature along with its cassette tape capabilities.

Netscape co-founder Marc Andreessen poses outside his company’s Mountain View headquarters in August 1995.  (AP Photo/HO)
Netscape co-founder Marc Andreessen poses outside his company's Mountain View headquarters in August 1995. (AP Photo/HO)

Why not just check the score on the Web? Good luck. You might have tried America Online. Remember America Online? It was like the Web before there really was the Web. On America Online, you could find a few digital newspapers, like Mercury Center, provided you paid the $9.95-a-month subscription and didn't mind hunting for game accounts by dial-up modem.

Well, you could hunt around if you had your own computer, which only about a quarter of U.S. households did. (I suppose you always could have sold some of your $9.77 shares of Apple stock and picked up a Packard Bell 486 with a 340 megabyte hard drive over at Circuit City.

It's funny how advances that seem so new and wonderful in the moment fade so quickly into a memory that is almost hard to conjure up. They made computers with 340 megabyte hard drives? Why? It's a reminder that in the tech world every new shiny thing is built on the foundation of something else; that no matter how amazing your breathtaking breakthrough is, it is likely to be forgotten in the flash of something more brilliant yet to come.

Like Twitter. Can someone tell me why we even bothered watching Super Bowl XXIX without Twitter? Each unbelievable Super Bowl play? Every incredible wardrobe malfunction? That crazy Pepsi commercial where the kid gets sucked into the soda bottle? How did we express our profound thoughts about any of it without Twitter? Did we actually turn to the person next to us and say something?

There was by 1995, of course, the cellphone. Macy's was selling a Motorola Digital Personal Communicator for $189 at the time. (Macy's. I know, right?) No reason we couldn't hoist that puppy up to our ears to share our Super Bowl thoughts with loved ones near and far. We had to talk fast, though, back in the day. The Motorola DPC promised 100 minutes of continuous talk time between overnight charges. But alas, no Twitter function.

Imagine what we missed during the 1995 Super Bowl without tweets, which in 2013 have been flowing like a fire hose. Somehow in 1995, we were able to power through, even denied such wisdom as:

"Watching my #BooThang on Media Day. #SB47 #49ers #QuestForSix @kaepernick7"

"I'm liking Jim Harbaugh's astrology forecast over his brother John's, and Kaepernick's forecast over Flacco's."

"#49ers gon win the #superbowl y'all!!!! #bet"

Yet, to our everlasting credit we managed. The 49ers even prevailed, beating the Chargers, 49-26. You can look it up. At least these days you can.

It's called Googling, grandpa.

Contact Mike Cassidy at mcassidy@mercurynews.com or 408-920-5536. Follow him at Twitter.com/mikecassidy.

Silicon Valley’s evolution

A momentous event like a Super Bowl is a good opportunity to look at how far the valley has come:
Super Bowl XXIX: January 1995
Netscape IPO: August 1995
TiVo founded: August 1997
Google founded: September 1998
Facebook founded: February 2004
Twitter founded: March 2006
iPhone launched: June 2007
Slingbox launched: December 2008
iPad launched: April 2010