Colt is an iconic American gun company. It has a proud history of invention. It perfected the revolver before the Civil War. One advertising slogan went, "God created man, Sam Colt made them equal." Big words for a big leap for the gun industry. The company also manufactured the famous M16 rifle for the U.S. military during the Vietnam War. The Colt .45 name even inspired a malt liquor. But by the 1990s, Colt had fallen on hard times. Gun-control activists were on the march. Lawsuits were threatening gun company profits. Colt was facing bankruptcy. And in 1994, an unlikely savior entered the Colt story. Donald Zilkha had a plan to revive the company by doubling down on Colt's history of invention. He was going to build the next great leap forward in firearms: a safer gun. He imagined a smart gun that would only fire for an authorized user. It did not go as he planned. And nearly two decades later, his story explains why we can have a smartphone that only unlocks with its owner's fingerprints, but we can't have a gun that does the same. --------------------------- This is a podcast from Planet Money about Colt's attempt to bring to market a "smart gun" back in the mid 1990's, and the reasons why it failed. Planet Money is a highly entertaining and educational economics podcast. If you listen to this (it's only 19 1/2 minutes long) after you've heard the introduction try to figure out the reasons why this gun failed. Then continue to see if you guessed correctly.