The Liki Song (Greybeard Mix)

© 2012 James Dempsey

First there was just new and free
Seemed simple as it could be
In the early days of Objective-C

But passing objects around
Across API bounds
It wasn’t clear just who the owner should be

Ooh
Mina wana meika la’a likiko
Ooh
Mina wana meika la’a likiko

I was retained and released
To keep my memory policed
(Mina wana meika la’a likiko)

Sometimes my mind it will slip
Causing some objects to drip
(Mina wana meika la’a likiko)

High water mark running high
Autoreleasing was why
(Mina wana meika la’a likiko)

I popped a pool off the stack
To get my memory back
(Mina wana meika la’a likiko)

Ooh
Mina wana meika la’a likiko
Ooh
Mina wana meika la’a likiko

Then I was garbage collected
Memory scanned and inspected
(Mina wana meika la’a likiko)

Oh but its runtime price
Bad for embedded device
(Mina wana make iPhone go slow)

We’ve managed mem’ry longer than I can recall
We look for better ways to handle it all
And though the path that takes us there may change
Our destination still remains the same

Ooh
Mina wana meika la’a likiko
Ooh
Mina wana meika la’a likiko

Then I refactored to ARC
It was more than a lark
(Mina wana meika la’a likiko)

A sweet compiler extension
Based on naming convention
(Mina wana meika la’a likiko)

Ooh
Mina wana meika la’a likiko
Ooh
Mina wana meika la’a likiko
Mina wana meika la’a likiko
Mina wana meika la’a likiko


The Liki Song is a musical history of memory management in the Cocoa frameworks and begins the story where many Apple developers first learned the frameworks, with manual reference counting and retain / release.

To tell the whole story The Liki Song (Greybeard Mix) goes back to the beginning of the frameworks at NeXT, before the days of retain, release and autorelease.

The greybeard mix of The Liki Song debuted at the first NeXTEVNT fundraiser for the Cartoon Art Museum during WWDC 2012. To date, this version of the song has been performed exclusively at these events which celebrate and remember the NeXT technology that was the starting point for OS X and iOS.

( OS X / iOS )

Vocals: James Dempsey
Background Vocals: Iari Melchor, James Dempsey
Guitar and Slide Guitar: Ellen Silva of The TikiTones
Ukulele: Michelle Kiba of The TikiTones
Bass (on cello): Kris Yenner

Music and Lyrics: James Dempsey
Recorded and Produced by Russell Bond at The Annex Studios