When my mother replaced her furnace eight years ago, she begged the HVAC guy to let her keep her old thermostat. After all, it wasn’t just any thermostat: it was a vintage 1950s Honeywell Round, designed by Henry Dreyfuss, and likely installed when the house was built. If you grew up in an old house before the 1980s, the Round is a thermostat, in the same way the brown-marbleized box of Kleenex is tissues. Sad to say, the Round was incomptible with her contemporary heating system, and now she has a white textured-plastic box, with tiny buttons and a digital readout.
These plastic boxes, today’s generic, were and are multiple steps backward. And someone finally noticed: former iPod hardware designer Tony Fadell, who created a new company to produce the Nest. A round thermostat, 60 years later and, at $250, unlikely to ever become the new Kleenex.