I am restoring a couple of Apple II machines. I would like to add an external 3.5" floppy drive, but they are prohibitively expensive.
Well, you're in for an even higher price tag, as you would need either need an
- Apple II 3.5 SuperDisk Controller (Apple Part number: A0076LL)
- Blue Disk Controller
While the first gives you compatibility with most Apple drives as well, it may not work with a bare PC drive. The Blue Disk is known to be most PC compatible of all. Both are rather rare. In fact, I never seen a Blue Disk in the field.
Also, at least the Apple 3.5 SuperDisk controller needs an enhanced IIe or a GS to work properly. Not sure about the Blue Disk.
But there is help in form of Reactive Micros clone of the SuperDisk Controller. Not cheap, but most worth the money if you want to use 1.44 MiB floppies. Here's a nice review.
I have tons of older PC floppy drives and I wonder if they could be made to work.
I don't see why they can't be made to work since floppy drive mechanisms (steppers motors, etc) are fundamentally identical with differences on the controller boards located on the drive or on a separate card.
Unless you find one of the above (or spend the money), you may need to design your own controller. No rocket science, but more than a weekend task. All it needs it some PC style floppy controler chip and some micro contoler handling that and communicating with the Apple using a smart drive compatible API. This will make it ProDOS and GS/OS compatible. Quite a nice project :)
And than there's the AE Transporter ...