Big shock, right?
With the help of a CD boot disc and a recovery disc, both gifts of friends, we have managed to get the computer functional. It turns out that our IE files (and our Macafee files) are pretty well corrupted.
We need to have XP for work reasons; I've been using Mozilla and he's been using Firefox pretty well exclusively. If we could remove IE from our desktop...sigh.
Anyway, we've saved all we need to save to CD and we will get a new hard drive. It's still a disaster, but it's been mitigated. And I'm not totally cut off any more.