On my dresser was one of those little plastic hangers that socks are sold on. I was about to throw it away when I noticed it had an 800 number molded onto it. I was curious to see what would be at the other end of that number, so I asked Google about it.
It lead me to Conover Plastics, whose home page claims,
Conover Plastics, Inc. is the leading manufacturer and supplier of sock hangers. With over 30 years of experience making sock hangers, Conover has a great assortment of sock hangers. We have many standard sock hangers in stock - ready to ship the same day we receive your order.
Every once in a while, I get a glimpse into a corner of business I don't usually see, and am amused and impressed by the complexity of human activity. Here's a product I've seen over and over, and never thought about where it came from. And it turns out that there's an entire company that makes nothing but those nondescript sock hangers. Not just that, I'm sure Conover has competitors, there may be an entire sub-industry of sock hanger makers, or at the very least, specialty injection molded plastics.
The enormity of industry is an amazing thing. The fractal-like splitting of products and services down into component parts; the supplying and demanding of those parts from firms created purely to provide them; the trade associations, brokers, warehouses, and middle-men; the conventions, skill sets, sub-cultures and specializations are fascinating to me.
I partake in these sorts of specializations in the software arena, and to think that there's that sort of unseen complexity in sock hangers is astounding.
Somewhere at work we have a 200-page catalog just for shipping materials and another 200-page catalog of supplies just for manufacturing departments. Somehow we even a thick catalog just for audio-visual systems for churches.
This splitting into finer and finer sub-categories of specialization shouldn't surprise me any more, but it still does, and I'm proud and impressed to see the human beehive of activity at work.