Before the 60s, booze was the most popular addictive substance; in the 60s it became weed and Ecstasy; latterly it’s been crack cocaine. But there’s every reason to believe that a new and powerful addiction has already got hold of us – before we know it.
The new thing which we absolutely have to have – the thing which we’ll go into debt to have – the thing that some people will steal to have – is the latest electronic consumer good.
Look at the take-up of iPads. 7.5 million of the things sold between April and September and an expected 25 million to be sold next year.
That’s not counting the 25 million of non-Apple tablets expected to be sold next year as well.
So why do 50 million people suddenly decide they need a tablet?
Answer: They don’t need one – they’re in the grip of addiction.
In the summer I sat next to a 16 year-old at lunch. She told me she had a new phone every year and expected to spend between £200 and £300 on one.
I was outraged. How could a school-kid spend that much on a phone?
“My phone is my life,” was the reply.
I keep remembering what Freescale’s Henri Richard said at the Electronica Forum last month.
He pointed out that the generation born in the 80s, and weaned on the Internet, are now earning good money and are increasingly spending their money on techie products.
This is true. Young people will shell out a few hundred quid on the latest gismo without a second thought.
They’d feel bad if they didn’t.
And that’s addiction.