Photo of Neil Turner wearing a Steampunk inspired outfit.

Recently, I’ve started using the above image as my ‘avatar’ – the photo of me that I use online when prompted to upload a profile photo. It’s a photo of me from a recent Sci Fi Weekender, wearing a Steampunk-style top hat with goggles.

Over the years, I’ve used a variety of different avatars to represent myself, and I’ve generally kept these in one Dropbox folder. So it offers an opportunity to look back at the different images I have used, going all the way back to the days of MSN Messenger.


The oldest one I can find is this one, taken in my first year of university (2003) and before I had sideburns. I probably think I looked really cool wearing sunglasses indoors. Teenagers, eh.

If you’re so inclined, you can view the full-size version on Flickr.


In the early 2000s, there was a site called WeeWorld that let you create a ‘WeeMee’ using a Flash applet, and this was mine. I used this as my avatar quite a lot, especially on MSN Messenger. I’ve brought the rather brief blog post I wrote at the time back from the web archive.

A South Park avatar

South Park

There was also a Flash applet on the South Park web site which allowed you to create your likeness, as if you appeared in the TV show. Again, I used this quite a bit at the time. Sadly, the image generator seems to have disappeared, and no-one uses Adobe Flash nowadays anyway.


The next oldest one I can find that is actually a photo of me (and not, for example, a jar of Chicken Tonight or a hamster) was taken in May 2009, around the time of my 25th birthday. I was on a trip to Wales with the university hiking club, and this was taken outside the camping barn that we were staying in. I was also newly single.


I used this photo, taken by my then-girlfriend, now-wife Christine on the beach at Morecambe, as my ‘work’ profile picture, and on LinkedIn, right up until 2010. I still wear the shirt and jacket regularly, even though Christine informs me that the jacket doesn’t really fit me any-more. I’ve had it since 1998 as it has my year 10 form number on the label.


This one was taken at Leeds Central Library, which had a small Steampunk exhibition, and a dressing up box from their archives for people to try on. This was also about the time when fezzes were cool, so of course I had to have a photo.


The next image that I used a lot was this one of me holding a barn owl, taken in the summer of 2014. Christine and I were visiting Blackpool Zoo, and we paid a little extra to have an owl experience. We got to fly the owls for a little bit, and, of course, pose for photos.


Finally, a new work profile photo, taken in early 2020 and before the pandemic meant that we spent most of the rest of the year working at home. This was taken by a colleague at work, and we all had similar photos taken to use on our web site. Before you start searching for it, I’m afraid the page has been taken down. This is still the profile picture I use at work and on LinkedIn.


And finally to the image I used most recently, before the one at the top of the page, taken in summer 2021 a few days after I started wearing glasses. This was taken in our front garden using a selfie stick. The shirt and glasses are the same in my newest ‘Steampunk’ avatar; Christine and I have a whole thing about pineapples which will make sense if you’re familiar with John Robertson‘s show The Dark Room.