I found on Wikipedia that:
“In 1901, Reginald Fessenden demonstrated a direct-conversion heterodyne receiver or beat receiver as a method of making continuous wave radiotelegraphy signals audible. Fessenden's receiver did not see much application because of its local oscillator's stability problem.
A stable yet inexpensive local oscillator was not available until Lee de Forest invented the triode vacuum tube oscillator. In a 1905 patent, Fessenden stated that the frequency stability of his local oscillator was one part per thousand.”
How could they make sustained oscillation before they had the triode?