What Mark Fields saw at the revolution

A generation of business people who came of age during the recession — and technology revolution — of the early 1980s have reached positions of real power.

These forty- and early fifty-somethings saw hard times from the ground up. And they also got an early feel for resistance to change.

One of them is Mark Fields, Ford's 49-year-old President of the Americas, who began his career at IBM.

"I started working there as an intern in '82, when the economy was really in the crapper; interest rates were crazy," Fields said recently. "And they were just starting this new division, the personal computer division."

After graduating in 1983, Fields went to work for the PC unit — "the only division I could get a job in because the 'Big Iron' divisions weren’t hiring."

The mainframe guys "kind of looked down on us," he recalled.

"We’d go into a data processing manager’s office and they’d basically kick us out— they'd say 'you want to take my power' — because their power was running the central units, being able to dictate to the users what they were able to do — 'and you want to take that and put it in the hands of the users? I don't think so.'"

Customers were resistant, too.

"I remember when we introduced the first hard disk drive — the computer was called the IBM PC XT and it had 10 megabytes of storage," Fields said. "I remember a customer telling me, 'How am I ever going to fill up 10 megabytes?'"