GENIUS you are! so much obliged
Answering "Why Slackware 3.1.0 (uses linux kenrnel 2.0.0)?" is probably a longer story than you want to hear, but the readers digest version is that
I started there in 1995 and never got out of 1st gear. And that primarily because I lacked network capability.
A lot has to do with trying to solve the kind of thing I just learned with your help, which include:
probing issues on two pci devices that happened right at the top of the boot, and was never able to capture before!
The only two PCI boards I have are a serial port card that I used before I had a NIC, plus now the NIC (as of just this last year).
Since I really have never used the serial port card, I can probably chuck it and just work on solving the NIC issue.
Ironically this same "vintage" no-rev-Pentium iron running Win95 adopted the NIC, right out of the box, connecting with my current dsl service provier.
I'll probably still be "stuck in the mud" for a while because I don't think I can get this rev of Slackware to work with my DSL/DHCP.
But progress is being made !
once again - Thanks