grandpa - 4:30 pm on Jun 24, 2010 (gmt 0)
This goes beyond technology, as wheel pointed out. The year was 1996 and Tickle Me Elmo had such a high demand, coupled with short supply - the result was mass insanity. There were fights, long lines, and prices in the thousands for a $30.00 toy.
What Causes Such Hysteria
I'm no expert on the subject so anything I offer is my own opinion. These people suffer greatly from inadequacies in other areas of their life and so rushing out to be the first (or in the first wave) is their way of masking the real problem. They become 'cool'. It is a means to rationalize normalcy in an otherwise unbalanced existence.