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Bill Orr, W6SAI Silent Key

from CQ Magazine on January 26, 2001
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Bill Orr, W6SAI Silent Key,  January 24, 2001

Well-known ham radio author and longtime CQ magazine columnist Bill Orr, W6SAI, passed away at his home on January 24. Orr, who was 81, lived in Menlo Park, California. His radio-related books (some of which were co-authored with longtime friend Stu Cowan, W2LX) included the "Radio Handbook," the "Beam Antenna Handbook," "All About Cubical Quads" and "The W6SAI HF Antenna Handbook." He wrote two columns for CQ, "Antennas" from 1973-1980, and "Radio FUNdamentals" from 1990 to 1998. In between, he was a columnist for Ham Radio magazine. In January, 1995, he and Joe Lynch, N6CL, wrote the only comprehensive post-World War II history of amateur radio in the 50th Anniversary issue of CQ.

First licensed as W2HCE in 1934, Bill started out on 160 meters, then discovered DX on 20 and received an early "WAC Phone" award for making voice contacts with all continents -- a much more difficult task in the 1930s than it is today. In 1938, he moved to California, where he received W6SAI, the callsign he retained for the rest of his life. During World War II, Bill worked in Douglas Aircraft's Radio Test Department, and after the war, he worked briefly for the Missile Division of Hughes Aircraft before joining vacuum tube manufacturer Eitel-McCullogh (Eimac), where he worked for 28 years until his retirement.

On the ham bands, Bill reactivated his station as quickly as possible after wartime restrictions were lifted, and in short order earned ARRL DXCC Award #17 and CQ WAZ Award #4. He was part of the original Project OSCAR team responsible for designing, building and launching the first ham radio satellite, OSCAR-1. Bill was also part of the first-ever 1296-MHz Earth-Moon-Earth contact between W6HB (the Eimac Radio Club) and W1FZJ (the Rhododendrum Swamp Radio Society). In recent years, Bill's favorite bands were 18 and 24 MHz, plus 1296, which he called "the undiscovered band," a favorite ever since that historic EME contact.

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Bill Orr, W6SAI Silent Key  
by K4PDM on January 26, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
Amateur radio has lost another icon. I will always remember reading Bill's books and columns during my formative years in radio. His talent of combining technical insight with a sense of fun is rare today. Heard him on the bands a few times, worked him once. He will be missed.
Bill Orr, W6SAI Silent Key  
by AD6W on January 26, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
I grew up on Bill Orr's books and columns and owe him a debt of gratitude for his many contributions to my continuing education. You can imagine my delight when he emailed me last year about a technical note I wrote concerning speaker systems for boatanchor receivers. He wanted to encourage me and did so. What a thrill. Bill Orr was an encourager and the finest kind of Ham.

Larry Esau, AD6W.
Bill Orr, W6SAI Silent Key  
by W2IOJ on January 27, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
I enjoyed working Bill on 17 meters...He never seemed to mind answering the many antenna questions he got while on the AIR...Over the years I have read & enjoyed his books & articles....Another "legend" gone but not to be forgotten...73 & 99 Bill!
Bill Orr, W6SAI Silent Key  
by G0FOS on January 27, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
Bill Orr's 'Beam Antenna Handbook' was the first amateur radio publication I ever read. It was all I could find in our school library. It was entertaining, well-written and informative. A short time later, I obtained my first amateur radio licence. I am deeply saddened at his passing. Geoff.
Bill Orr, W6SAI Silent Key  
by W2PM on January 28, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
Bill Orr was a true GIANT to Amateur Radio - the epitomy of a ham. Always helpful, knowledgable and seeking to learn something new. As a youngster Bill's writings were a bit over my head but as I grew I relied upon them for their clarity and reliability. The ARRL should seriously consider some way to permenently memoralize giants like Bill Orr, Lew McCoy and others...
Bill Orr, W6SAI Silent Key  
by W6TQH on January 29, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
In my youth, I knew of Bill Orr as the author of the Radio Handbook, several editions of which I have read over the years. It was my good fortune to meet him as an adult after I moved to Northern California. It was like meeting a living legend for me, yet he was as friendly and approachable as anyone could hope for. One day he gave me a tour of the manufacturing plant at Eimac, a real treat. As my daughters reached their teenage years, they took up an interest in amateur radio, and both got their Tech Plus licenses. My wife, not to be outdone, got her Technician license as well, after studying the materials for only one night, which really impressed my daughters!. As each got her license, I sent word to Bill, who graciously responded by sending a copy of one or another of his fine books for them (and me) to read. I sent him a holiday card, thanking him for his recent article in Electric Radio. I will surely miss him.

Michael Gaynon, W6TQH
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