Out of curiousity, what happens if you put the Red Hat Linux 7.3 bootdisks in your computer :
boot.img - boot image for CD and hard drive based install
bootnet.img - boot image for network based install
drvblock.img - Supplemental Block Device Drivers
oldcdrom.img - Supplemental CDROM controllers for old CD-ROM's.
When you've booted from the Red Hat Linux 7.3 floppies, look at the output of the kernel while booting. Does it find your harddisk? Does it find your CD-ROM (maybe you need oldcdrom.img).
ps. the age of your laptop might be one of the reasons of the problem. Although Linux - the kernel - itself supports a lot of hardware, most Linux distributors like Slackware and Red Hat, only support the more common hardware out there, so you might try the older distributions of Linux.
ps. the reason I mentioned the older Red Hat Linux 7.3 instead of the latest version, Red Hat Linux 9, is because I'm almost certain that the new Red Hat Linux will not work on your system.
ps. Instead of Slackware 9.0, you might want to try an older version of Slackware.