Get a wireless router that has at least 4 wired ports. Most companies have something like this for under $100. This will give you: 1) connection to the internet, 2) connection to any existing computers or peripherals (printers, etc) via the wired ports (wired is always faster, more reliable and more secure than wireless) and 3) access for all your wireless equiped devices.
So, you could have your laptop with either integrated wireless or add on via USB or PCMCIA (and as many of these as you want, up to maybe 32, so your friends could come over for a LANgasm), your desktop with a wired connection via its ethernet port, your printers via either the printer ports on your desktop or their own wired or wireless print server all tied together through the router and all having internet access. Is good, no?
As noted above, any wireless devices can be either integrated wireless or using either a USB or PCMCIA add-on. Theoretically, it doesn't matter if you use the same brand for all the connections, but its probably a good idea to not temp the blue-cyber-meanies by getting a different brand for each item. If you have an integrated system, like say that which comes on some of the SAGERs, you don't need to get a USB or PCMCIA device to connect, its in there, as they say. Integrated devices are generally better performance-wise because they have a better antennae. Some people like them better because it leaves other ports open, its one less thing to carry around and get lost and there's nothing sticking out of their machines. Others like the external devices because they can take them or leave them, if there is a problem, they can easily replace them. As for power usage, it depends on the device. You can turn off the integrated if you want to, and you can disconnect the externals if you want to. Otherwise, they take about the same amount of power.
Available standards are a), b) and g). a) is the best, being pure 54 mbs. b) is what they rushed to market, its 11 mbs (and you can get turbo versions that double that). g) is a combo version that is backwards compatible with b) and forwards compatible with a).
I believe its best to have each element (ie - computer, printer, external HDD, whatever) that will be available to all the other elements (ie - not dedicated to a single computer or user) with its own connection to the LAN. For computers, this can be either wired or wireless. For a printer, this can be with a printer server, again either wired or wireless. This allows any printer to be accessed by any computer and all computers can talk to each other without any other computer besides the two involved.
Hope that answers your questions. By the way, don't be bashful about not knowing anything, Einstein didn't know as much about computers as you do. Neither did Newton, nor Tesla, nor ... .... ....
Fact is, the father of computing, if there is one such person it would likely be Alan Turing, didn't know as much about computers as you do. All of us, no matter how much we know now, at one time didn't know diddley and were just as much in the dark as you. And we didn't have the advantage of these forums to help out. So count your blessings and smile. Then get back on your system.