I want to learn about Linux. I understood from reading that Linux Mint was best for that purpose. Look like a steep learning curve.
This is not the part of the learning curve you should be starting out on. Mint does have a nice interface - I have played with it on and off for several years. That said...
Mint 16 is based on (I believe) Ubuntu 13.10. I have tried unsuccessfully to install Xubuntu 13.10 (Ubuntu with the light weight Xfe desktop interface) on my trusty Dell Pentium 4 machine. Same symptoms as with Mint 16. I have done a little research and I find that there is a known bug in Ubuntu 13.10 with respect to their implementation of Grub and EFI (secure boot). My old 486 was built long before the whole EFI thing was dreamed up. Still, it smells to me like the issue is related to this.
I would recommend that you consider an older version of Linux Mint for your old PC. Mint 14 runs on my old 486. I would recommend using Mint 13 LTS as LTS stands for Long Term Support and that means that security and other patches will be provided until 2017. For the purposes of learning Linux you do not need the features (and problems) with the latest and not-nececessarily-greatest release.
Please do not give up on Linux. The folks on this forum will be glad to help you on your learning journey.