Disk Read Errors can also occur if you happen to have a Floppy in the drive and its trying to boot from the floppy ( I know you probably don't but i figured i would mention it anyways
If you haven't already tried clearing the CMOS, then you can try that. Clearning the CMOS is a little different depending on the maker of the motherboard. Some have CMOS clear buttons, others you must remove the battery and then re insert, and others you need to use a jumper that is on the board and switch it over to a different set of wires, then back again (it will tell you in the motherboard manual or OEM Manual that came with your computer).
Other than that, with the age of the Drive, i would say your brother is probably right and the drive has gone to the land of Dead Hard Drives..
If you have important files on the drive that you must recover, try to put it in as a slave in another computer if you can and see if you can access the files that way first before you toss your drive (If thats the route you end up going)