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I have connected a USB external floppy drive to my Macbook Pro (OSX El Capitan). I am unable to "view" the external drive, and hence unable to access the floppy content.

I have inserted a floppy, and saw a led turn on briefly. Have checked what Volumes are mounted (using terminal command) and do not see any volume that could correspond to the USB external drive.

Any idea how to resolve this first step problem?

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The 400K/800K Macintosh floppy disks use a variable speed system, where different parts of the disk are written at different densities. They also use GCR instead of MFM.

A standard USB external floppy for IBM-PC floppies can't read this. You'll either need a real Apple variable speed drive, or something like Kryoflux or a similar system.

And reading the sectors from the floppy solves ony the first part of the problem; after that, you'll also need tools to deal with file system used on those floppies. Though it's possible that it is compatible enough to HFS to work out of the box, but I wouldn't rely on that.

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    The best option is to use a bridge system like a PowerMac G3 to read the floppy from a genuine Apple SuperDrive (SD/DD/HD floppies) and save the disk image over ftp. MacOS 8-9 can easily run both DiskCopy for imaging the disks and Fetch to upload the result over FTP. MacOS X doesn't support floppy drives well so stick to MacOS Classic instead. The PowerMac G3 has built-in 10-baseT Ethernet so you can connect it to a modern network without tracking down any weird adapters. – Michael Shopsin Jan 24 at 16:27

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