In 1985, my father bought me my first computer. It was an Apple ][c with a 9" green screen monitor, 128K of memory on board and two 5.25" disk drives. Over time, I added a Smith Corona dot matrix printer, beefed up the memory to 1 MB with an Applied Engineering Z-Ram Ultra II card and replaced the processor with a 4 MHz Zip Chip. It was awesome! I often tell people that I would not be where I am today professionally without it. It was arguably the best money my father ever spent in his life.
While going through some things in my office the other day, I found a box that contained a number of the old Apple 5.25" disks and I was inspired to have a look and see what I could find in the way of emulating Apple ][ machines. What I found surprised me a bit. There are a number of emulators out there and several are still being actively maintained!
I was similarly inspired about 10 years ago and took the time to transfer the contents of many of my old 5.25" floppies to CD. It was a time consuming process but I haven't regretted it. The process I used required a serial connection and a null modem cable from the Apple ][c to the PC. Other mechanisms exist for creating and transferring disk images (.DSK), but the one I used was the Apple Disk Transfer utility. Many of the popular applications and utilities can be downloaded from the internet. Here is one very popular site.
For more information on getting data off of existing floppy disks, have a look in the help system for AppleWin under “Disks and Disk Images” -> “Transferring Disk Images”.
I still have my Apple ][c system packed away. Every few years, I bring it out, hook it up and just see if everything still works. The last time I did that was probably two years ago. Although the system does include a clock, it doesn’t know what day or time it is anymore and it won’t even let me set the date past 2000. On the positive side, those floppy disks I bought in high school all seem to still work. The earliest of these are now almost 30 years old. Who knows, perhaps the solution to long term data storage is 143K 5.25″ floppy disks.