John’s mystery book: “Better Shortwave Reception” by William Orr (W6SAI)

Herein lies one of the wonderful things about our SWLing Post community….

Yesterday, we posted a message from John (KC8RZM) asking readers to help identify a vintage radio book that had meaningful impact on his life. Within a few hours, SWLing Post contributor, Bob LaRose (W6ACU), came to the rescue with the following comment:

I’ve got a copy of the book! – “Better Shortwave Reception” by William Orr, W6SAI. My “First Edition” is dated 1957. It has both cartoons as you mentioned. It was probably the earliest SWBC book I had, that’s why I remembered it.

Bob also scanned some of the pages and images to share with John and the SWLing Post community. Bob notes:

I scanned the well-worn front cover, three of the cartoons inside and another page that readers may find interesting – the Auroral Zones from the East and West Coasts.

I probably got this book in 1959 or 60 and kept it all these years, along with my early vintage WRTV Handbooks. (The rest of the Handbooks from about 1970 on were given to Ray Robinson of KVOH for reference purposes).

I always liked the Auroral Zone map because when I first started DXing on the East Coast in 1959 at the height of the Solar Cycle there were frequent solar storms that totally disrupted reception of the many European stations that transmitted to North America at that time. The map clearly shows why the VOA picked Tangier and Manila for relay stations!

Select images from “Better Shortwave Reception” by William Orr, W6SAI

Thank you so much, Bob! The moment I saw these images–especially the cover–I, too, remembered this book!  I love the cartoons!

Post readers: Does anyone else remember this book?  What are your favorite shortwave books?  Please comment!

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14 thoughts on “John’s mystery book: “Better Shortwave Reception” by William Orr (W6SAI)

  1. Peter

    I still have the 5th edition that was published in 1981 with authors listed as William I. Orr, W6SAI, KCK 3201 and Stuart D. Cowan, W2LX, KCZ 1102. On page 13 is a picture of Tom Sundstrom, W2XQ, “who helped revise this edition” sitting in front of his station equipment.

  2. Jerry H. Neves

    Hello, I for sure recognize the cartoons in this book, therefore I must have seen the book somewhere, probably around early sixties.
    Enjoyed seeing this published.

    1. Michael Black

      One of the cartoons seemed familiar, so I’m thinking the artist did cartoons in the hobbyists electronic magazines.

  3. Michael Black

    Some radio books had multiple editions, and the author changed over time.

    Robert Hertzberg had a book about ham radio in the library about fifty years ago, and memory says the earlier edition had been by someone else.

    I once found a shortwave book from TAB at a used book sale. It was old when I found it, but it was neat because rarely did I find hobby radio books at such sales. I think it changed authors with editions.

    I had a book about 1971 about improving shortwave reception, but it was current at the time. I think it was published by Gilfer. I know I tracked it down some years back (for some reason I got rid of it decades ago), but I’ve forgotten. Maybe it was a later edition of Orr’s book, but no cartoons. But it wasn’t “practical hints”, but outright modificatiins to receivers.

  4. Bill

    Yes! I got this book when I discovered my first shortwave radio, an old Hallicrafters, and my grandmother’s basement in the mid-80s. I was probably about 11 years old or so. I would read that book constantly even though it was considered dated even at that time. It’s descriptions and drawings fascinated me endlessly. At some point it was lost and then a few years ago I found another first edition on eBay which I quickly purchased. That book has a lot of sentimental value to me and was one of my first introductions to shortwave radio.

  5. Ron Chester, W6AZ

    Wow, I’m pretty sure that’s a National NC-109 on the cover, my Novice receiver in 1960! ?

    Ron, W6AZ
    KN9AGL in 1960

  6. Ken Romm

    I have the radio amateurs handbook by William Orr. Over the years,I have built many of the circuits published in that book. I still find it handy to this day. Unfortunately William is no longer with us anymore and his books are getting hard to find.

  7. John

    William Orr (W6SAI) sure was an amazing guy. In addition to writing many books and articles he did this with some others which is pretty darn spectacular:

    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.

    Sounds like he was a proto “Elon Musk”.

  8. Klaus G7RTI

    Yes I remember it well, got it in the 80s not the first edition but it was always a good read and provided the basic knowledge. I still remember the cartoons, especially the one with the delivery guy!!

  9. John

    I knew it had a blue (ish) cover!
    So does one of the editions of The ABC’s of Shortwave Listening.
    Seeing those wonderful cartoons again is triggering powerful waves of childhood nostalgia here.


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