Dpunisher - thanks for your advice. Before I received your email, I removed the battery, wire brushed the contacts, wire brushed the contacts inside the laptop, and put it back together. Magically it came back on - just for a minute - and started loading Windows XP. So I figured the motherboard was not trashed.
It took several iterations of wirebrushing, and restarting. I alternated between Safe mode, normal opening of XP, and also tried the repair console which promised to fix problems with Windows. Finally it is now opening normally in XP and seems to be working fine.
It feels just a bit touchy as if the contacts on the battery are not quite there or perhaps there is a bit of rust someplace other than the battery - but it is working!
If it fails again or the touchiness begins to be a bother, I will follow your directions about removing and cleaning everything with distilled water. And thank you again for that advice.
So - at least for now - problem solved.
Evie - thanks for your input. As this is the South, of course it was sweet iced tea; however as I am a modern man, it was done with Sweet'N Low.
PS - this is really a great forum.
Edited by tyl604, 18 August 2009 - 10:01 AM.