i recently aquired a old IBM thinkpad model 600e. it is old: P2 366mhz, 128mb ram, 12gb hd...
first of all: i am looking for a distro that this thing can run.
secondly: i would imensely prefer if this distro had some build in software for stuff like listening to mp3s and watching dvds (if thats possible on this old of machine). internet browser, office suite, yada yada. i say this because this is my first dealing with linux and i would prefer to not have to learn how to install stuff yet (i hear its not exactly as easy as windows 8O ).
I suggest DSL. Damn Small Linux. mp3 and DVD playback is usually omitted because of various licensing issues (Fraunhoffer and MP3) and outright bad litigation (DeCSS and the DMCA) and as such, usually has to be installed after the fact.
The good news? Installing software on Linux doesn't have to be hard! For example, to install something to watch videos or DVD's, open up the MyDSL application installation tool, find the app you want to install (xine, kaffiene, and mplayer are all good media players), and install them. If you want to get a little more "1337", you can drop to command line and use the apt-get program.
In any case, give it a download (only 50MB!) and try it out. Initially it will only be running from the CD and leave the OS already on the hard disk alone, but if you like what you see you can install it to the disk
Even though I can't qualify it as light-weight, I would go for Ubuntu, either 5.10 or 6.06, because they have pretty much all the apps you listed and will comfortably fit in the space you have. The 6.06 is particularly easy to install, and you can try it out using the Live CD feature.
I'm running slackware 7 on my good old 133 MHz 64 MB RAM Compaq laptop. Installation was easy as I recall. I did this 4 or 5 years ago, whenever 7 was current. It loads X windows from the command prompt in 10 seconds. The key was not how big or new the distrobution was, but what was installed. GNOME and KDE are major consumers of resources, and I did not install them. The problem with that is they offer some of the windows like behavior we are accustomed to (drag and drop between apps, execution of associted files from a file manager, etc). With the amout of hardware you have, I would first try with GNOME or KDE and see how it goes. If it's a slug, re-install without and try that. I would take the option of hand picking the apps that are installed and keep then to a minimum. You can always add more later. Finally, turning off unused services will conserve resources.
Slack is a great distro in it's own right, but unless the "n00b" is willing to spend some real time with it, it's not the best distro to get started on. Keeping the system up-to-date can be tricky and time-consuming and installing software without the aid of something like slapt-get can be a dependency headache.
I fully agree with the sentiment that any distro can be suitable for older hardware when leaving out monsters like KDE, Gnome, OO.org, and Mozilla and instead choosing lightweight alternatives. I do however believe that there are some distros that make it much easier to get to that position as some of the more friendly distros automatically install a desktop environment without even asking if they'd like to use a simple Window Manager instead. Any distro can be good for older hardware, some just make it easier to get there.