What a goat rope. Thank you cellogeek and rallentando for your excellent, though alas insufficient, advice. I can't tell you how many times I recycled the modem and router in the past week. I also discovered that the cable company will remotely reset the modem via their automated service menu, another good thing to know. I finally got around to cleaning up the detritus of old, unused Norton installations, which fixed a nagging problem on the old laptop where it hung on every shutdown and I had to boot twice to get ZoneAlarm active. And I installed an unused wireless pc card in the old laptop.
For future reference, mine and anyone who is desperately surfing for personal accounts of healing a non-functional wireless internet access via cable modem setup, this is what finally worked:
1) First I had to get a computer that had a reliable ethernet connection. No small feat with one melted motherboard (I still assume), one laptop with a BSOD and another running WIN Me. In the end it had to wait for DH's new laptop to arrive.
2) With human assistance from the cable company I set up a cable modem to computer ethernet connection and verified that the modem was functional. That did require a modem recycle, a task at which I am now expert.
3) While I had internet access I looked up instructions for configuring the router on the Lynksys site. The first FAQ was router to cable modem connections. Imagine that! Left them open in several windows so I wouldn't need to follow any additional links in the middle of the process.
3) Next I added the router into the loop, modem to router via the Internet port, and router to computer.
4) For a variety of reasons, I reset the router. I think that was the most important step in this whole process. Then I set up the router to use DHCP, then MAC cloning, and finally re-setup the security for the wireless network, all following the instructions from the Linksys site.
5) Eureka! I have internet access. I have wireless access with my antique Dell and new wireless pc card, and I have wireless access with DH's new laptop.
I'm so happy. And so tired.
Now I need to figure out what to do with the fried desktop computer. And no pictures for awhile.