Originally posted by tsemple
Are there any recommendations for a good distribution to get started out with for this hardware, and my relative lack of experience with Linux?
I'm afraid that the answer is no. Vector Linux (at least VL4), as Demonbane mentioned, is better suited for a Pentium class machine. Besides it's not very friendly to newbies.
For 486 machines I think that DeLi is the way to go:
I haven't tried it myself, but generally I think that the older your machine, the more manual work to get everything up and running.
For a complete newbie I would much rather recommend that you get a Pentium II with 64 or even better 128MB memory and at least 10GB HDD. Then you could install one of the mainstream distributions without any hassle. These machines are getting pretty cheap now, if you can get one.
Sorry to bring bad news. Good luck with your Linux project!