How old is the CD-ROM drive? Depending on it's age, it may not work regardless of firmware settings. Many old-old CD-ROM drives do not recognize modern CD-ROM formats.
Did you use a 650MB (standard) blank media? Or did you use a 700MB (extended) blank media? If you used the 700MB media, try it with a 650MB media to see if it gives the same result.
Check to see if there is a floppy boot image on the CDROM, and use a dd like tool to write the image to the floppy, and boot from that.
Here's a link for a dos based floppy image writer called rawrite. http://www.tux.org/pub/dos/rawrite
You may also want to check out Yoper - it's not as small as those you listed, however, it does pre-link all the binaries for the processor type you are installing on, and I've found it to be a reasonably sound beginner distribution. You can find it at http://www.yoper.org