Re: WHAT? Mythbusters
Radios before transistors were valve radios (thermionic valve radios to be more precise). They used a vibrator (no, not that kind) where a solenoid would open the contacts supplying power to its own coil. (A bit like an automotive turn signal flasher can on crystal meth.) The resulting intermittent power would provide pseudo AC power to step-up transformers to generate the necessary high voltages to run the valves. There were no transistors in those radios. Triodes and Pentodes, not transistors.
(The inverter circuitry sometimes had its own box, hidden in the engine bay to keep noise (electrical and acoustic) well away from the radio itself.)
There were portable (a loosely defined term at best) that ran on valves, powered usually from lantern sized dry cell batteries.
Then came the transistor, allowing a radio that was much smaller and ran on far safer voltages.
"Or what did you think they used before silicon?"
Germanium. (Well you did ask.)
Germanium transistors were what you usually found in early transistor radios. Silicon transistors came along later.