As late as the 1990s, the basic tools used in planar surveying were a tape measure for determining shorter distances, a level to determine height or elevation differences, and a theodolite, set on a tripod, to measure angles (horizontal and vertical), combined with the process of triangulation. Starting from a position with known location and elevation, the distance and angles to the unknown point are measured. A more modern instrument is a total station, which is a theodolite with an electronic distance measurement device (EDM). A total station can also be used for leveling when set to the horizontal plane. Since their introduction, total stations have made the technological shift from being optical-mechanical devices to being fully electronic.
Whatever methods you choose, and whatever equipment is best suited for your surveying job, be sure to choose wisely. No reason to overspend if you don't need the fancy equipment. But there is also no reason to underspend and waste time doing manual measurements that aren't as accurate.