Hi Carol,
I recognise the first trace - I got it when I was trying to mike up an accordion. The problem was the mike was too near the reeds and also the voltage supplied to the little mic insert was too low. What you have there is clipping, and it is from your input overloading the circuits you are connecting to.
The tape deck is outputting a much higher signal then the inputs can handle. On a laptop, this is because the only input you have is for a microphone, which generates only a tiny voltage, so your signal is overwhelming the circuits, giving you the characterstic flat top to the waveform.
I suspect you are also connecting to the microphone input (the Pink one) on your desktop. The one you should be using is the "Line In", the one on my soundcard is coloured Blue.
Just using the blue socket on the desktop should solve your problem there - the laptop may be more tricky because you have to tell the circuits in some way that you are sending in a strong signal. I believe there is a way to do this on some models (using Function keys?) but I have no information, perhaps a call to a local PC repair shop might help.
If none of the above helps, try Start/Run/Sndvol32 and try adjusting the sliders

Kind Regards
----- Original Message -----
From: Carol Dysart Tapp
To: audacity-users@lists.sourceforge.net
Sent: 13 July 2013 20:57
Subject: [Audacity-users] Recording window in Audacity

For the last six or eight months, I've had a rather odd thing happen when I record with Audacity.

I have Windows XP on one machine (desktop) and Windows 7 (laptop) on the other that I use for recording, using Audacity 2.0.3. (same problem on both)

I am recording from audio tapes connected with a mini-plug from the tape deck to the sound cards on my machines.

The recording window shows like this: <snip>