Hello Fran. We will need more details in order to assist you. Can you give us your laptop make and model? From there we can see if the laptop has a built in wi-fi adapter. If it does not, you'll need to buy one. They are fairly cheap these days.
Whew. That is one old laptop. To answer your question, the laptop does not have a wireless connection built in. As such, you'll have to use your ethernet cord to plug the laptop in either directly from the modem, or if you have it connected to a router, from the router.
However, there may or may not be an ethernet port on the laptop. I cannot find a service manual, or really any manual that lays out the technical specifications of the laptop that would mention this. Other specifications that I was able to locate, failed to mention any network type connections.