William I. Orr

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William (Bill) Ittner Orr (1919–2001) was an engineer, educator, and communicator. He was the American author of numerous amateur radio and radio engineering texts. He is best known as the author of The W6SAI Antenna Handbook[1] and fondly remembered for the 1959 Radio Handbook.[2]

Early life and education[edit]

Bill grew up in New York, where he was an only child. His father took little interest in him and did not encourage him in activities that involved other children. Bill's mother encouraged his early interest in amateur radio. Bill taught himself morse code, and in his early teens held the amateur license of W2HCE, later changing to W6SAI.

After earning his degree in electrical engineering from the University of California at Berkeley, he was hired to work on innovative radar systems for combat airplanes during WWII.

After the war Orr was involved in engineering for the tube manufacturer Eitel-McCullogh (EIMAC). In addition, to working for EIMAC, Bill penned columns for the CQ Magazine and Ham Radio Magazine. His application notes for EIMAC tubes were favorite reading for amateur radio home builders worldwide.

He was active in amateur radio throughout his life. A well known DXer and a DXCCHonor Roll member, he also conducted a few personal DXing epeditions to exotic locations like Monaco, St. Pierre, and Miquelon.

Project "OSCAR"[edit]

In early 1960, William Orr joined a group of radio amateurs (mostly electronic engineers) working to launch a private satellite. By 1962 they had created "OSCAR" (Orbiting Satellite Carrying Amateur Radio) at a total cost of $63.47 . "OSCAR" beat out the $50 million Telstar by seven months for the honor of being the world's first privately owned satellite.

"Oscar stayed in orbit for 3 weeks and broadcast "Hi" in Morse Code to "more than 570 Radio Amateur tracking stations in 28 countries including Japan, China, Antarctica, and the Soviet Union."[3]

Personal life and death[edit]

Bill married Natalie McCrone; after the war ended they moved to Menlo Park, California, where they raised six children together.

Bill Orr died in his sleep, then aged 81, on 24 January 2001. He was survived by five daughters, one son, and four grandsons.

Writing style and bibliography[edit]

Bill had the ability to use simple plain language in writing about technical subjects in a way that attracted amateurs who had an interest in the topic but lacked a technical background in the area.

Over a period of 40 years Orr wrote and edited scores of technical books and articles of interest to Amateur Radio enthusiasts. His topics ranged from basic electronic theory to microwave communications to the theory, design and construction of antennas.

His titles include:

  • Orr, William I.; Cowan, Stuart D. All about Cubical Quad Antennas (3rd ed.). ISBN 978-0-933616-03-5.
  • Orr, William I. (1996). The W6SAI HF Antenna Handbook. ISBN 978-0-943016-15-3.
  • Orr, William I. (1959). The Radio Handbook (PDF). Editors and Engineers, Ltd. Retrieved 4 January 2016.
  • Orr, William I. The Radio Amateur Antenna Handbook. ISBN 978-0-8230-8706-8.
  • Orr, William I. Radio Handbook (23 ed.).
  • Orr, William I. Vertical Antennas. ISBN 978-0-8230-8710-5.
  • Orr, William I. All About VHF Amateur Radio. ISBN 0-8230-8705-0.
  • Brier, Herbert; Orr, William I. The VHF Handbook for Radio Amateurs.
  • Orr, William I.; Cowan, Stuart D. Beam Antenna Handbook. ISBN 978-0-8230-8704-4.
  • Orr, William I.; Cowan, Stuart D. Simple Low Cost Wire Antennas for Radio Amateurs. ISBN 978-0-8230-8707-5.
  • Nelson, William R.; Orr, William I. Interference Handbook. ISBN 978-0-933616-01-1.
  • Orr, William I.; Stoner, Donald. Novice and Technician Handbook.
  • Orr, William I.; Cowan, Stuart D. Better Shortwave Reception.
  • Orr, William I.; Cowan, Stuart D. Radio Amateur Callbook (multiple annual ed.).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Orr, William I. (1996). The W6SAI HF Antenna Handbook. ISBN 978-0-943016-15-3.
  2. ^ Orr, William I. (1959). The Radio Handbook (PDF). Editors and Engineers, Ltd. Retrieved 4 January 2016.
  3. ^ Lester, David (28 October 1962). "[no title given]". This Week Magazine.