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Before search engines came web directories. That's right; the first collections of links were assembled by hand. Web Directories have become less popular over the years as programming and software has become more sophisticated and search engines easier to use. Web directories are still a common sight however.
The first Web Directory was Yahoo. Their directory was first assembled by the founders of Yahoo and quickly launched the company onto its path of success.
Another popular web directory is DMOZ. This site is a great resource for anyone, is hand edited and organized by volunteers that are hand selected by the sites owners.
There are many hand built web directories on the internet; literally tens of thousands of them, however Yahoo and DMOZ stand out from the crowd as the biggest contenders.