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trying to install Debian 'stable', hangs reading linux.bin

I'm trying to install Debian on an old 486 box with a 2Gb hard drive and
20Mb of RAM.  The motherboard is of 'unknown' configuration and the network
card is an NE2000-compatible ISA card.  I am able to get the machine to work
with DOS, Windows '95, and FreeBSD 4.9.

I have attempted to use CD #1 (using 'SBM to boot the CD), CD #2, the
'rescue' disk, and the 'compact' rescue disk.  In each case, the system
hangs when trying to read 'linux.bin' after printing the 2nd dot, like this:

Loading  linux.bin..

If I use CD #2, 'root.bin' loads fine, then the system hangs loading
'linux.bin' (again).

I have attempted multiple permutations of arguments at the 'boot:' prompt.
In all cases I'm able to get the 'rescue/install' menu to work, I can press
F-keys and they work, I can enter parameters and that works.  But the system
fails when attempting to load 'linux.bin', in all cases, every time I try.
I even changed out the CD ROM drive thinking that it was broken,
re-formatted the hard drive, re-partitioned the hard drive using FreeBSD's
partition/slice editor (to get rid of anything left over in the MBR and make
sure it was 'clean'), and each time through it still hangs at the same
place.  'Hang' implies a power down to get the computer to respond again
(including pressing a button on the CD ROM to eject the CD).

I'm not entirely confident that the motherboard is in perfect shape.  It's
an old "piece together" box made from spare parts that I wanted to boot
Linux on for testing.  However, I've had FreeBSD 4.9 booting ok (into the
installer, but it still boots the kernel and detects all of the hardware),
as well as Windows '95.  For that reason I suspect something is wrong with
the Debian boot-up.

Please let me know if there's something I can do to make it work, or if it's
possible to log anything that would be helpful to you.

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