The order-disorder transformations in NaCN, KCN, and RbCN are studied under thermal cycling around Tc by monitoring the change in optical transmission produced by the light-scattering properties of their multidomain ordered structures. The phase transitions in both NaCN (large-hysteresis cubic orthorhombic) and RbCN (hysteresis-free cubic monoclinic) remain basically unchanged under multiple thermal recycling. In contrast to these persistently ferroelastic (NaCN) and antiferroelastic (RbCN) ordering systems, KCN acts as a ''bistable'' borderline case at its critical temperature Tc168 K. After passing a large-hysteresis cubic orthorhombic transition in its first thermal cycle, a ''memory'' of it (preserved up to room temperature) causes, in all subsequent thermal cycles, hysteresis-free cubic monoclinic transitions at nearly the same Tc. When cooling beyond Tc, a gradual monoclinic → orthorhombic transition occurs around 155 K, which, under subsequent heating, returns with large (∼15 K) hysteresis back to the cubic structure. The well-correlated optical- and dielectric-constant changes of these transitions in KCN under various thermal-cycling conditions are presented and discussed. © 1988 The American Physical Society.