"Freeduino" took about 3 months of rather casual development effort to go from the (not quite correct) diecimilla reference design to its final state.These things are hard to estimate because you're talking about adding relatively small features (auto-reset, power-switching, etc) to rather basic original designs, and there was usually someone that had already done part of the work...
Plus do you add all of the time ATmel took to design the processor before the Arduino team started doing their initial reference design. Do you add the time spent doing other tools like the GCC compiler (either just the avr backend, or the entire GCC compiler).
It took approximately fourteen billion years for arduino to come about.
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