Well, first of all, I hope you mean for us to bear with you rather than bare with you. I'm sure you're a nice person and all, but lets keep our clothes on, OK?
For networking, first question is are you going to be connected in a net work? You mention being cabled together, I assume this would be with CAT 5 cables? The problem with that, unless you have a router, is that only one computer can connect to one other computer at a time.
Its fairly easy and quite cheap to get yourself a router, either wired or wired with wireless. This would allow you all to connect at one time and you could also all connect to the internet as well. A wired router costs about $30 to $50. You can get a good wireless with 4 wired ports and a cable port for about $80. Then you could either use the cables or you could get wireless cards for your machines. Or mix and match. You could also get print servers and have them accessed off your network as well, which means that everyone has access to the printers. Or any other peripheral you connect up via the network.
Once you have a network, with or without a router, all you need to do is establish which of your drives and which of your folders are shared or not. You can make a whole drive either shared or not, or you can do it on an individual folder basis. You can even establish priorities and passwords so that some folders would be accessible to some people and not to others. All of this can be done right in XP. No need for other programs. Its very easy to do and can be done for very little money. You can also spend a great deal if you want to.
Via a wired network, your working speed would be about 100 MB/s, more if you all have Gigabyte ports. 100 MB/s means a GB every 10 secs, 6 GB per minute, 360 per hour. with Gigabyte networking, you get 10 times that. That's under ideal conditions so in actuality, figure on about 80% of that. Depends on each machine. You can also be sending stuff about from more than one machine to more than one machine. Indeed, once you are all hooked up, the other machines would be able to see your shared drives pretty much just as if they were on their own machines. The d/l and u/l speeds won't be as fast but still cranking.
If you have more questions, ask away.